Archive for the ‘Lessons Learned’ Category

I’m Hired!

Posted: August 16, 2011 in Lessons Learned, Teaching

I was offered a teaching job last week, but I’ve been too pooped to even tell you about it!

On Tuesday morning, I received an unexpected call from a school asking me if I’d like to interview for an ESL position. I hadn’t even seen the posting yet, because it had just become available, and so I was really surprised! I interviewed the following morning, and they called me back within an hour to offer me the job! This was Wednesday, and I went back to the school Thursday to spend some time with the instructional support teacher to learn more about the curriculum and the classes I’d be assigned. Friday was the first staff development day, and I’ve been pooped ever since!

The Lord continues to teach me of His faithfulness and provision. Although I already miss the freedom and opportunity to write that ¬†I enjoyed just one week ago, I’m learning to trust His plan. I’m still writing, although it’s exhausting. My goal is still 1,000 words per day; some days I don’t quite make it. His choice of provision right now is for me to work as a teacher, and I’m thankful for it. I’ve met some great people, and I’m excited about the opportunity to meet some great kids!

As always, thank you for your support and prayers! ūüôā

 

~LG

I was just looking back at what a disaster this blog has been since I created it to replace my non-anonymous blog a year or so ago. I’ve never been able to quite nail it down and be consistent. I’ve started and stopped various weekly posts; I’ve tried out fiction, shared non-fiction, and copied from my journal. Even though I still haven’t figured out what to do with this blog, I’m glad it’s here. I’m glad I have a place to write whatever I want, and I’m glad I have a place to look back on what I’ve learned. I found the post below, and I really liked it, so I’m posting it again.

Last October, when I wrote this, I was really struggling with life. I’ve been kind of up and down since then spiritually and emotionally as I try to juggle writing, my day job, and my home life, (not in that order!), but I still relate to what I said about ten months ago. While I presently am experiencing more joy, and succeeding in seeing God at work in my life, I still wrestle with hearing Him and continuing with the work He gave me to do, even when I don’t want to. So, here’s what I wrote about Jeremiah:

My journal entry for the day started out with how frustrating my day at work had been. It’s the same old complaints, I reported; no reason to re-complain about all the things I just haven’t learned how to deal with yet. I further explained that my day was so frustrating, I simply left a million things undone on my desk — really, really unlike me — to go to yoga.

Ah. Yoga. The pain, the relaxation, the weird suggestions to smile with our livers and to send out gratitude to the universe. I just breathe deeply and try not to fall over.

After yoga, I reported, I was rather productive. Nothing that would be of much interest to you, dear reader, but I surely did enumerate my accomplishments. Accomplishments of any sort these days need to be recognized and rejoiced over, because even the slightest failure can send me into total despair. It’s just where I am right now.

Ending portion one by confessing that I simply didn’t much want to read the Word or to try to talk to a God who doesn’t seem to talk much to me, I quoted what I think is a Psalm, but what I know from a song:

Cast me not away from Your presence;
Take not Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation,
And renew a right spirit within me.

Then I picked up Augustine’s¬†Confessions¬†instead of God’s Word. One more maneuver¬†around¬†God so that I might readabout¬†Him. Augustine is battling with the difference between the art of human conversation and the art of divine conversation… or so the footnote reported. That struck a nerve with me, so I journaled about it. YES it’s completely different! All these songs and books act like you can just waltz right up to God like you do your best buddy and shoot the breeze. Well, that does not describe any encounter, real or imagined, I have ever had with God. It’s just not like that, and it’s incredibly difficult to hear Him. For me. Right now. Here’s what I wrote:

There’s a certain sincerity of heart and settling of the spirit that must precede, or at least coincide with, meeting the Maker of the universe [the seriousness of which is not generally necessary for your random, “Hey, what’s up?” to Joe Blow]. And what of hearing Him? That is wholly lost on me.

Then I finally read Nehemiah. The whole thing. You see, I’m about ten days behind on my Bible schedule, so I need to speed things up. (Now I’m only SIX days behind!) I like Nehemiah. I learned some stuff from him. Check it:

  1. When things suck, when you’re scared, when you’re surrounded by enemies (real or imagined, physical or spiritual), do three things: pray, keep your weapon at the ready, and keep working on what God gave you to do. Just keep going, but don’t forget about the praying and the fighting. (Nehemiah 4:9, 17)
  2. Stand up and show some respect for the Word of God. Don’t act like it’s a freaking chore; you are dang well blessed to be in its hearing. (Nehemiah 8:3, 5)
  3. Weeping is a natural response to God’s Word. (Thank you… I’ve been doing a lot of that lately!) ¬†But, don’t be grieved; the joy of the LORD is our strength. He doesn’t ask us or want us to stay in that weepy, I-suck-at-everything mode. He wants us to be joyful in His grace. Now to get there… ¬†(Nehemiah 8:9-12)

I closed my journal entry echoing the Psalm/song above. I really need God to restore my joy.  Really, really, really. Really badly. I know He can.

~LG

My journal entry for the day started out with how frustrating my day at work had been. It’s the same old complaints, I reported; no reason to re-complain about all the things I just haven’t learned how to deal with yet. I further explained that my day was so frustrating, I simply left a million things undone on my desk — really, really unlike me — to go to yoga.

Ah. Yoga. The pain, the relaxation, the weird suggestions to smile with our livers and to send out gratitude to the universe. I just breathe deeply and try not to fall over.

After yoga, I reported, I was rather productive. Nothing that would be of much interest to you, dear reader, but I surely did enumerate my accomplishments. Accomplishments of any sort these days need to be recognized and rejoiced over, because even the slightest failure can send me into total despair. It’s just where I am right now.

Ending portion one by confessing that I simply didn’t much want to read the Word or to try to talk to a God who doesn’t seem to talk much to me, I quoted what I think is a Psalm, but what I know from a song:

Cast me not away from Your presence;
Take not Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation,
And renew a right spirit within me.

Then I picked up Augustine’s Confessions instead of God’s Word. One more maneuver around God so that I might read about Him. Augustine is battling with the difference between the art of human conversation and the art of divine conversation… or so the footnote reported. That struck a nerve with me, so I journaled about it. YES it’s completely different! All these songs and books act like you can just waltz right up to God like you do your best buddy and shoot the breeze. Well, that does not describe any encounter, real or imagined, I have ever had with God. It’s just not like that, and it’s incredibly difficult to hear Him. For me. Right now. Here’s what I wrote:

There’s a certain sincerity of heart and settling of the spirit that must precede, or at least coincide with, meeting the Maker of the universe [the seriousness of which is not generally necessary for your random, “Hey, what’s up?” to Joe Blow]. And what of hearing Him? That is wholly lost on me.

Then I finally read Nehemiah. The whole thing. You see, I’m about ten days behind on my Bible schedule, so I need to speed things up. (Now I’m only SIX days behind!) I like Nehemiah. I learned some stuff from him. Check it:

  1. When things suck, when you’re scared, when you’re surrounded by enemies (real or imagined, physical or spiritual), do three things: pray, keep your weapon at the ready, and keep working on what God gave you to do. Just keep going, but don’t forget about the praying and the fighting. (Nehemiah 4:9, 17)
  2. Stand up and show some respect for the Word of God. Don’t act like it’s a freaking chore; you are dang well blessed to be in its hearing. (Nehemiah 8:3, 5)
  3. Weeping is a natural response to God’s Word. (Thank you… I’ve been doing a lot of that lately!) ¬†But, don’t be grieved; the joy of the LORD is our strength. He doesn’t ask us or want us to stay in that weepy, I-suck-at-everything mode. He wants us to be joyful in His grace. Now to get there… ¬†(Nehemiah 8:9-12)

I closed my journal entry echoing the Psalm/song above. I really need God to restore my joy.  Really, really, really. Really badly. I know He can.

~LG

God asked me to do something a while back. ¬†Although I possessed some of the professional skills necessary to contribute to such a task, that is not what He was asking me to do. ¬†He was not suggesting that I merely “contribute.” ¬†Knowing that contributing was all I was prepared to do, I brushed it off as a nice idea, hoping that someone, someday, would meet this need.

Some months later, I was praying that God would bring me closer to Him.  That He would make me useful.  That He would challenge me and teach me how to love others the way He loves them.  I listened earnestly for a response.  You can probably guess what it was.

Oh. ¬†That. ¬†Really? ¬†That’s how You want to teach me those things? ¬†Well, no, honestly, I don’t want to do it at all.

He waited.

Seriously? ¬†I can’t do it. ¬†You know my personality. ¬†I can’t start a ministry.

He waited.

I cried.

Okay.

I was not merely reluctant; I was terrified. ¬†I would have to be in charge of this, and I have never been in charge of anything except my own classroom. ¬†We would need a location, and it would have to be free. ¬†Free? ¬†Yeah right! ¬†I made a few uncomfortable contacts (did I mention I HATE contacting people I don’t know, especially to ask for things?), but God made it happen. ¬†Victory! ¬†Next, I had to create a plan. ¬†I had no idea what to plan, so I had to meet with someone who had more expertise. ¬†God made that happen, even though I think both of us were reluctant. ¬†I had to organize and facilitate. ¬†That, actually, I can do — I just didn’t care to do it. ¬†Oh, and I had to recruit people. Scratch that — I am having to recruit people every week to make this ongoing service project happen.

It’s not easy. ¬†Few are responding. Out of desperation, I’ve had to recruit people outside my church — and outside the faith — to help, which infuriates me. ¬†Aren’t those who love Jesus supposed to be helping?

I’ve been angry about it, but God reminded me of a few things today.

  1. It’s not my job to play Holy Spirit and decide who should be doing what in service to Him.
  2. It is my job to be obedient. I must keep asking, serving, and loving.
  3. God made no promises about anything. ¬†This is His thing, and He’ll do it the way He wants to.

Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention that He has provided every single week. ¬†It’s just not been exactly the way I had it planned. ¬†Imagine that.

~LG

Trust and Obey
When we walk with the Lord
in the light of His word,
what a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will,
He abides with us still,
and with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

[Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.]

[Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.]

[Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.]

[Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.]

[But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.]

[Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.]

Then in fellowship sweet
we will sit at His feet,
or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do,
where He sends we will go;
Never fear — only trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

You would think the lesson I learned when Jesus walked up to my car would have stuck, but it didn’t. (In case you missed it, here’s¬†Part One of that story, and here’s¬†Part Two.) The story below retells another frustrating situation that happened to me about two years ago.

On to today’s story:

So Jesus walked up to my car a little less than a year ago.¬† He was a filthy, possibly drunk, homeless man, but I already told you about that.¬† What I didn’t tell you about was that roughly a month ago, Jesus showed up in my new city, and He was a lesbian beggar.¬† Let me back up a little.

After insulting Jesus a year ago, I had a serious change of heart.¬† That moment affected me in ways I can’t even begin to explain, even though I attempted to in the previous posts.¬† (I’m still not happy with how I told it.)¬† Anyway, I decided that the best thing to do would be to get gift cards to Subway and hand them out.¬† If they’re really hungry, they can eat.¬† And as a bonus, it really was pretty healthy food.¬† Some hobos appreciated it and asked God to bless me while some refused it completely.¬† That’s okay.

Fast forward to my new, slightly-less-urban city.¬† I really just didn’t expect to see homeless people here; I don’t know why.¬† I guess I associated them with my old city and thought things would be peachy here.¬† I mean, this is the South, after all.¬† So, I have not kept up with my Subway gift cards, nor have I paid any attention to homeless people at all.

Therefore, at a moderately major intersection, when I saw a rather masculine-looking bum with a buzz cut, camo pants,¬†and breasts, I did not have the upwelling of compassion¬†I had become accustomed to in my previous city.¬† Here was my actual, disgusting thought process as I approached the intersection: “Is he holding a sign?¬†¬†Wonder if he’s creative¬†or if it’s the same as all the others.¬† Wait… no way is that a chick?¬† Ha – it’s a lesbian.¬† Weird.¬† I’ve never seen a¬†gay homeless girl.”¬† And¬†I turned the corner without another thought.¬† Until later, of course.¬† Not only did I dismiss her because she was homeless, but I also dismissed her because she was [probably] gay.

I could say a lot here, but there’s no need. ¬†I was about as wrong as I could have possibly been, and there’s no reason to try and explain away my wrongness. ¬†Instead, I just want to end with two questions and a reminder.

  1. Since when did God sanction a feeling of superiority among His followers?
  2. When is God ever pleased when we devalue His precious creation?

For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.

~Matthew 7:2

~LG

Click here for Part One of this story.

Part Two:
Fast-forward three long days to August 29, 2007. Running about 10 minutes late for work, (which would get me there right on time, because I’m usually 10 minutes early), I’m pulling up to what’s normally a busy intersection, and I’m trying to fix my hair at the same time. Although this is an intersection of three streets, and it is usually semi-dangerous, it was noticeably empty this morning. Empty except for this mis-buttoned flannel shirt with a hairy belly and very dirty jeans sticking out of the bottom. I could smell him in my mind’s nose even though my windows were rolled up and he was about five yards away from my car. Watching him stagger around somewhat aimlessly, a mixture of anxiety and disgust tightened in my chest. So, I stopped my car several yards back from the intersection to keep my distance. He seemed to be crossing the street at this point anyway.

As I was checking my reflection in my mirror, my peripheral vision noticed him walking toward my window. Without turning my head, I let my foot off the brake enough to inch the car forward to pass him (nice trick I picked up in this urban area), hoping he’d get the hint. He didn’t. I saw his belly in my side-view mirror swaggering up to the car and I quickly glanced up at the light. Still red. I’m thinking, “God, he’s probably going to ask me for money, but he seems drunk, and I don’t know what he’d do with it. And what if he’s really crazy?” My eyes darted around and I noticed that I was still alone at the intersection with this man. And the light was still red. He’s at my window now. My anxiety heightens as his hairy navel stops literally six inches from my face. Keeping my eyes locked on the red light, I wave my left hand up by my head in a stern “go away” fashion. And he did. And the light turned green. And God slapped me across the face as I made my way through the intersection.

See, I had been feeling pretty good about myself as far as compassion was concerned. I gave money to the church, which I know gives money to the homeless, and I committed to giving money when I saw the homeless organization people. I was doing my part! It was certainly more than most people do; I knew that for sure. I was even so sure of myself that I cut out that little picture of my homeless Jesus and kept it in agreement with the sentiment. And then I’m driving along, completely self-absorbed, and Jesus walks up to my car absolutely out of the blue. I never even let him say a single word to me. I never even saw his face. I refused to connect enough humanity with that sloppy, dirty clothing to even dignify him with a level look in the eye. I still, ultimately, don’t have a clue what he was going to say to me. I waved him off like you’d shoo away a fly.

Do you think I’m being too hard on myself? I was a woman alone who felt scared by an intimidating man approaching my vehicle! In that situation, I simply did what was best for my own safety! I couldn’t have known what his intentions were, and I have to go with my gut in these situations! And he probably would have taken my money and drank or smoked it away. Maybe. ¬†I certainly made all those excuses to myself.

But maybe I could have looked at him the way Jesus looks at him and taken two seconds to stop and think. EMPTY intersection. If he was the slightest bit aggressive, I could have run the red light! Maybe he really was just starving. Maybe he was lost. Maybe he just needed one good meal because he was feeling disoriented from lack of food. And I didn’t even have to give him money! That’s what kills me in all this! If I had taken that two seconds to think, I would have remembered that my mother-in-law had just mailed me a Subway gift card to use “any time [I] need a lift.” So God, in all His wisdom, knew that I thought I was a pretty nice person. And He orchestrated the perfect circumstances for the claims of my head to come face-to-face with the reality of my heart.

Jesus showed me my heart in a way that literally broke it. I haven’t felt convicted by the Spirit like that probably in years ‚Äď if ever. Sure, I’ve felt correction and guidance. But something like this? Sometimes, you feel gentle nudging by the Spirit. Sometimes it’s so gentle, or else you’re so self-absorbed, you feel nothing at all. And sometimes, He lets you alone to let you see how disgusting your nature is, and then walks right into your soul and spiritually and emotionally breaks you into little pieces.

And I have no idea if that poor man ever got any food, or if that was even what he wanted, or if it was actually an angel of the Lord sent to test me. Whether human or angel, I know without a doubt in my mind that he was a test that I failed so miserably. And do you want to know what I realized later is even worse? Even though I realized my error within a block of where he was standing, I didn’t go back. It literally didn’t occur to me; I was late to work.

Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

~Matthew 25:41-45

~LG

I wrote this about three years ago, when my husband and I were living in a very urban area filled with a lot (and I mean a lot) of homeless people. ¬†I wanted to share this mostly as a reminder to myself. ¬†I learned a lesson that day, but it hasn’t always stuck with me.

. . .

Have you ever noticed that there are a ton of homeless people? ¬†Although I sympathize with the fact that some of them have mental health issues, I’ve always felt a little bothered that they’re at EVERY intersection begging for money. I’m just going to be honest: it’s annoying and sometimes scary.¬† You also don’t know if they’re scamming you, and their car’s around the corner, or if they plan to waste your money on dope. ¬†Thus, I’ve always been leery when it comes to homeless people.¬† I generally avoid them, finding something incredibly important to do in my car as they walk past my window.¬† If they persist and ask anyway, I usually lie and say I have no money. “I’m really sorry. I just don’t have any cash.” Mmm. Right.

So, I’d been feeling kind of bad about this and had read in the Bible all these passages about caring for the needy, and I decided I’d turned over a new leaf. ¬†Anytime I saw someone at an intersection working for the local homeless organization, then I would give a buck or two. They may still steal out of the bucket or whatever, but I just felt a little better about it being an organization where the homeless were working. When you donate money, you get their publication that has news about the homeless population in the area as well as other handy tips just about life. So begins Part One of my story.

Part One:
As I drove home from church on Sunday, my car squeaked to a¬†stop at the intersection of [major interstate highway] and [major cross-street]. ¬†As expected, the familiar bright yellow, homeless organization shirt came into view with a shady-looking young man in it. ¬†Coarse, long hair and a snaggle-toothed smile topped the baggy, yellow shirt that hung on his emaciated frame. I estimated his age to be in the upper-30s range, but then I quickly reassessed in light of the probability of years of drug abuse. He may have been no older than myself. I gave a dollar in exchange for a “Thank you” and one of their newspapers.

Upon my arrival home, I collapsed onto my couch a little amused in anticipation of reading the little stories in their little paper. But the stories were not little at all; rather, they related heart-wrenching tales about homeless children who “live” all around me and are turned away from shelters. I muttered the obligatory, “That’s just so sad,” and shot up a three-second prayer as I turned to the last page. Staring back at me was a young man with long, scraggly hair and a scruffy beard. He wore the stereotypical sign about his neck lamenting his lack of food, but this sign was different. It simply stated, “Will work for loaves and fishes.” What‚Ķ? Then my eyes caught the caption, “How can you worship a homeless man on Sunday, and ignore one on Monday?” Wow. That’s pretty good.

I didn’t feel terribly bothered by this. I thought it was very clever. Cutting it out, I put it by my computer. There was no stinging conviction in my heart because, remember, I had just given a whole dollar. I didn’t ignore him — not at all! I gave him money, and I didn’t worry about what he would do with it. (Even though I did see him 30 seconds later apparently stuffing something in his pocket and I muttered,”Typical.” But I still did my part!) So ends Part One.

~LG