Where Did My Help Come From?

I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber Psalm 121

As I think back on the first 7 months of this pandemic including the shutdown in my city, the loss of a big chunk of my income for 3 months, Psalm 121 definitely speaks to me.

I remember when I received the stimulus check in early April. I thought, “great this will be smooth sailing”. Then in June the loss of income hit. So being a teacher, in the summer during a pandemic with no real chance of finding temporary work, what did I do? I prayed, and prayed, and prayed.

There was no second stimulus check because of politics. Right now it is one person holding it all up. But no problem. Why? I don’t look to government. I look to God.

God came through for me through his people. I received cash in the mail. I received a $100 Visa Gift card in the mail. 2 sisters in Christ sent me money. A friend called and told me he wanted to help and gave me a check for $500. People brought me food. I received a gift card to a local supermarket. Each time I was surprised in a joyful way and could not believe it.

Now I have a 3 day weekend. Today is a 1 day fall break for my class. I just felt it was a good time to write a post, the night before and scheduled, to give thanks to Jesus and his people.

I also wanted to share this post in hopes it will encourage someone to seek Jesus in a hard time. No I did not become a millionaire, but received something greater. The experience strengthened my faith and encouraged me to keep going in my ministry and teaching.

Thank you for reading. God Bless. Please enjoy this song- Lift My Eyes- by Alisa Turner.

When God Surprises

Waking up yesterday before my alarm clock went off I took as a bad sign. I never like waking up before my alarm clock having never been a morning person. I woke up with some pain too. So I prayed and gave my day to Jesus. He blessed me with a series of surprises.

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He has been blessing me the past several days with being able to find a parking spot, actually my favorite one, closest to the school. That may not sound like much to you but living with chronic illness that is HUGE. Finding that parking spot turned my morning around right away.

In the afternoon, a fellow spoonie, someone with chronic illness, messaged me on Instagram. She asked if she could interview me live on Instagram. I agreed and we video chatted for about 10 minutes to talk about it. It will be Saturday at 1pm CST. We introduced ourselves to each other. I shared with her that I am in ministry as well as a teacher. Then I shared with her that Jesus understands pain because he experienced it. Then I asked if I could pray for her and she agreed. I have a new friend in Sweden now.

So the day was already a day of blessings but then the big surprise. A friend from church I had not talked with for months called me. He said he wanted to give me some money to help me with expenses due to my loss of income over the summer. I went over to his place in the evening. He gave me a check for $500. Jesus has carried me through a loss of $800 a month over 3 months in the midst of a pandemic. Each month Jesus has blessed me through his people.

So I wanted to share this post to thank Jesus and express my gratitude.

Oh and one more blessing- I did not burn my dinner. 🙂

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

A Much Needed Encouragement

On top of dealing with the whole COVID-19 thing and social distancing, this summer something happened that I did not see coming. One week I was asked to teach 2 evening classes online. The next week I was informed that the program I had taught in during the evenings for 20 years was being canceled abruptly and permanently. That meant losing $800 a month income for August through October with no way to really go look for a way to replace it due to COVID.

Sometimes we just have a gut check time in life. So I have pressed on with serving Jesus and trusting him to work it all out for me somehow.

Yesterday I checked my mail and found something from my church. Inside was an envelope someone had anonymously mailed to my pastor with a note:

Along with the note was a $100 Visa Gift Card. I will use it to pay my electric bill this month, so I can keep running my air conditioning. Living with chronic illness, heat is a big issue for me.

Receiving that in the mail gave me a boost big time. It was mailed from a different state anonymously so I have no idea where it could have come from except knowing it comes from a fellow Christian.

Hopefully my anonymous donor sees this and can know how very grateful I am. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

A Bright Moment At This Time

A bright moment happened Sunday in the midst of everything that is going on at this time. It was the climax of her season on American Idol.

It began with a nervous young woman from Harlem trying out. She was raised by her grandmother because her mother is in prison. Her grandmother is a devoted Christian and so is Sam.

Sam made it through to Hollywood week. People watched as she gained confidence. She made it to the final seven, the final five and then the top two. The votes were in and she won. Her first words in reaction were- “Thank you Jesus.” Words shared from a sincere heart.

The show surprised Sam by having Lauren Daigle call her and ask her to sing You Say together. They recorded from different places because of the virus, but this young woman from Harlem, who made money by singing for change on the subways, had a moment to shine with one of her favorite artists.

The show was stripped of all of its glitter and performances in front of audiences. The contestants performed from home. In the end, the words- “Thank you Jesus” were cried out from a beautiful heart, a beautiful smile, a beautiful young woman who loves Jesus.

It was a bright shiny moment for me to watch.

What bright moments gave you a smile recently?

God Turned Loss into Gain for Me

I love this verse because it helps me focus on God’s ability not my own. He can do far more than we can imagine.

I have been thinking about that lately as it pertains to my experience during this time of shutdowns because of the virus. I will never forget when I first learned that my classes would not meet. My first reaction was, “I have lost everything.” As someone who had struggled with depression in the past, that thought was concerning for me.

I prayed about it and gave everything to God. It was another one of those- God I need you to rescue me- prayers. I listened to Lauren Daigles song Rescue on repeat one day during the first fay of shutdown.

No there was no easy quick simple solution, but step by step Jesus provided for me and guided me to new opportunities. People from church brought me food. I received cash in the mail. The first few weeks about every other day there was help of one kind or another.

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At the end of March I found out my classes would continue on Zoom. That meant learning about Zoom, not just joining a meeting but hosting. So a new skill was added.

That led to the idea of having blogger chats on Saturday mornings using Zoom. If you would like to join one, let me know.

Speaking of blogger chats I had asked Vanessa of braveblessedandbeautiful.com to show us how she makes her images with bible verses using You Version Bible App. She showed us last Saturday. The image at the top is my maiden voyage into the world of creating images. Thank you Vanessa. Do yourself a favor and check out her blog. She has an incredible life story.

Tomorrow Robert from the UK will show us how he uses Canva.

For 18 years, I have had a Sunday morning group at my church for practice in English and reading the bible. That stopped meeting because the church is only online now. As few weeks ago, we had our first Sunday group meeting using Zoom.

Oh and yes, as I have shared before, I no longer cook exclusively with my microwave because I bought a slow cooker from Amazon. That is a minor miracle in and of itself.

I am so thankful that Jesus took what seemed like devastating news of the schools where I teach being shutdown and turned it into some positives for me such as learning new skills. friends helping me, and continued employment when I thought all was lost.

But my only claim about cooking in the slow cooker is that the food is edible 🙂

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Finding Gratitude in the Midst of Hardship

The past several weeks have certainly seen upheaval in life. It could be a depressing time for me if I did not have God helping me. In my prayers the past few weeks I have been thanking Jesus for how he has helped me during this COVID-19 crisis. I thought I would share some things I am grateful for in the midst of hardship.

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Hardship- class canceled for a few weeks and starting again online.

I am grateful that I have work and can still have income. I am thankful for being able to help my students learn new skills studying online that can help them with their futures. Yes, I miss seeing them in person, but I can see them in online class and stay connected.

Hardship- I am in 3 at risk groups so going to the store is not for me.

I am thankful for friends who bring me food. They have been a blessing. I can also order food for pick up curbside at some supermarkets here who have set aside time only for people in high risk groups.

Hardship- I live alone and can’t see friends at church, see my students, see people at my coffee shop hangout.

I am grateful for online services from my church. I can also see my students online. I have had video chats with friends in Brazil.

Corrie Ten Boom was in a Nazi concentration camp. She saw her sister die in the camp. Her story reminds me that what we are living through now is not as severe as what she endured. One of her quotes is one of my favorites.

“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

I am so grateful that because of Jesus I can have a relationship with God. I am thankful for Jesus waking me up with a song in my spirit.

What are you thankful for at this time?

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

A Big Thank You to a Pastor Who Has Blessed me

Monday I had lunch with Pastor Robb from my church. My home church is going through some changes with the pastoral staff. Our lunch was a blessed time of fellowship, but Pastor Robb let me know that duties for the pastoral staff are changing.

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It was a bittersweet lunch for me. I enjoyed our time of fellowship. I have greatly appreciated Pastor Robb’s ministry as the pastor of outreach for the past several years. During his time as pastor of outreach, I experienced many valleys due to health issues. I shared with him that he has been a lifeline for me through the down times of dealing with health issues.

Pastor Robb was the one I first shared with that I needed the medication for depression/anxiety due to years of living with chronic illness whittling away at me. Depression and anxiety are symptoms of two of the chronic illnesses I live with. He was the one who told me that it was medical and I did not need to resign my ministry.

As we talked, I had mixed emotions. He has meant a lot to me over the past several years. But I was also excited about the pastor my ministry will be under and a new direction the church is taking for outreach because it fits wonderfully with a new direction I feel the Lord calling me to in my ministry.

If I were to try to use a comparison from the bible to explain it, I would look at Paul and Barnabas. Paul forged ahead to share the gospel no matter what. Barnabas encouraged him and shared his wisdom with him. Not that I am anywhere near being Paul, but my ministry has been one of sharing Christ’s love with the nations. Pastor Robb has been a great source of guidance and encouragement for me.

So my post today is to thank Pastor Robb for his ministry to me over the past several years. I am so grateful for all of your help while at the same time I look forward to a new direction.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

A Hassle That Led to A Blessing- Part 2

Last week I shared about a hassle of my asthma inhaler not working for the last doses causing me to go to the pharmacy. Because of that I was able to see a young woman from Vietnam, whom I had helped, working as a registered pharmacist. That was A Hassle That Led to a Blessing.

That same trip led to another hassle that turned into a blessing. I left my insurance card there. On Sunday I called and they told me they had my card. Before I went to pick it up, I stopped at a store across the street. I head a voice say-“Is that teacher Matt.”

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I looked and saw a young woman from Guatemala who was my student for a few years. She met with me at my church along with another woman from Colombia. I helped both of them prepare for college.

It was a blessing to see her again and to catch up on things with her. She is back in college after having had a baby boy.

It is too easy to get bogged down in the difficulties of now and forget how God has worked through us. I am thankful that God gives us reminders of him working through us.

It is too easy to focus on only negatives in our past and doing so leads to feeling worthless, depressed, and other negative thoughts and emotions.

It is important to remember how God has worked through us and to express gratitude to God for that. If we do so, it can help lift us up.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Thankful on Difficult Days

Body slammed is how I explain what a no energy and painful morning feels like. Kind of like chronic illness picked me up and slammed me down with no mercy.

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That was my experience yesterday morning and has been several times in the past few years. The kind of fatigue that just sitting up can be exhausting. Living with chronic illness can wear on a person and get a person down, so if I have a bad day, I try to stop to say what I am thankful for. So here are some things I am thankful for.

I am thankful that I can pray and ask for strength. Once I got going, it eased up, but getting going can be the hard part.

I am thankful I have this afternoon and evening free to rest and hopefully do some more writing.

I am thankful that I can blog and have freedom to write about my faith.

I am thankful for the wonderful bloggers I interact with.

I am thankful I will see the moms in my class this morning.

By being thankful, it helps me to not go down the path of despair as it says in Isaiah 61:

” and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair”

Thank you for reading. God Bless

Story Time- Speaking Portuguese After Surgery

Nurses are wonderful in my book. I think they are awesome and always appreciate them. One story about a wonderful nurse is from when I had a minor surgery in November 2017. I had a rupture in a incision scar from a previous surgery that needed to be repaired.

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After the surgery, I woke up in the recovery area with a nice nurse sitting by my side. She told me after I was fully awake that when I was coming out of anesthesia I was speaking a language she didn’t know. She told me it wasn’t Spanish, so I spoke some Portuguese my other language. She told me it sounded like what I was saying as I first came out of anesthesia.

I had to stay in the recovery area longer than expected because my room wasn’t ready yet. So she wheeled me to an area she could draw a curtain around for privacy. She asked me what I wanted for lunch and the last item I asked for was chocolate ice cream.

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She got me 2 chocolate ice creams which further proved to me that nurses are awesome.

When we pray, we don’t know how to pray. We often don’t know quite what to say. In the mornings, we can be groggy and it can be difficult to focus. We don’t need to worry about it because there is someone by our side helping us. That person is the Holy Spirit.

In Romans 8 we read:

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

The Holy Spirit is by our side helping us when we pray. He is our translator 🙂

By the way, when I meet nursing students now, I ask them to remember me and if I am ever their patient to bring me ice cream. Nurses really are awesome. 🙂

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Oh by the way, a few weeks ago I asked who I should give shopping lessons to. The winner is Dawn. Congratulations Dawn. 🙂