"The thistle is a prickly flower, aye, but how it is sweetly worn."

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Child that Brings Us Joy

Here I sit on Christmas Eve.  Jude is off with his dad, and I am doing fun things like laundry.  The quiet is nice in the sense I get to sit and blog, which I just haven't had time for this week.  I've been trying to think of how on earth to say all that's on my heart this time of year, but it's always so hard for me to express what Christmas means.

Yesterday, I went to church and was tearing up numerous times over just the reality of Christmas.  I try to wrap my head around what it must have been like to live prior to Christ's birth.  The ache of knowing you absolutely can't save yourself and when oh when will the Messiah come and save you from yourself.  I wonder what it was like to try to know God before the veil was torn.  How frustrating to crave that relationship, but know you could only get so far.  And the joy that it would have been to be present that first Christmas and know that the angst, the wait, the longing was all over.  And there He was.  Emmanuel.  God is with us.  The reality of those words is so profound.

I've mentioned before when I wrote Lover of My Soul how intimately I've come to know Jesus since my divorce in summer of 2010.  I actually wrote a blog article about this at one point one Christmas right after, but I just can't find it.  Anyway, the fact that God is now intimately with us is a gift that came with Christmas.  Prior to that, there was so much seperation.  Not eternally, but relationally.  I love how Christmas reminds me to stop and think how blessed I am to be born at this point in history where I can come to God and know him so intimately.  How I can feel my very soul breathed to life each day as He just fills me.  The feeling of knowing you are surrounded by the Holy Spirit and you can't help by cry for the joy and beauty of it all.  There are no words, I just know that it is the most achingly beautiful thing.

There has been so much death and disappointment and sadness this Christmas it's seemed.  More than any other.  I've heard of more child deaths close to my own life that ever before.  And that doesn't take into account the tragedy in Connecticut.  It's interesting.  Salvation began with the birth of a child.  Right now we are in the time of grace where people are being called and hopefully responding to Christ.  Responding to the birth of that child so long ago.  The hope, and isn't the birth of a child always filled with hope?  And the death of a child brings the death of the hope.  Yet with this child, he was born to die.  Because without his death, there wouldn't have been hope.

I'm amazed at how the gospel is so present in Christmas.  The willingness of people to display the nativity.  The way Christmas carols blatantly call the listener to ponder just what child is this and how the king of kings salvation brings.  My heart aches for all the millions of people who sing along with the radio stations and Bing Crosby and the truth is right there staring at them.  And yet there is no room for that baby in their life.  Salvation is there beckoning at this time of year more than any other.  Yet we get so focused on gift giving, we miss it.

When the tragedies happen so close to Christmas, they seem to be magnified in their hurt and pain.  At Christmas, it's like we all know that this is not our home and we don't belong here.  We hope to experience the joy and magic of childlike faith in things like Santa again.  Yet that childlike faith is available to us all.  But not in Santa- in Jesus.  When I think about Christmas this year, all I can think is 'Maranatha- come Lord Jesus'.  Yet, I am thankful for the continuing period of grace.  I pray that this Christmas brings a revival in the hearts of all.  That the Holy Spirit will speak to hearts all over the world and remind them there really is more.  This childlike joy and wonder is real.  Seek the child.  Find the joy.  May you find the joy of Emmanuel God with us this Christmas.
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Covered in Grace

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Miracles in disguise of the flu

I have so much to be thankful for this week, and I honestly feel it to be somewhat miraculous.  Thursday morning I awoke nauseous but after struggling with anxiety so recently, I figured it was mostly that.  Around the time my kids were in special areas (9:00) I started feeling really achy.  Considering Jude had the flu last week, I was pretty sure what was happening.  I continued on, then talked to our school nurse at lunch time.  She told me that it sounded about right, and dismissed me for the day.  I had every intention of getting tamiflu asap.

I called my doctor.  No one answered, so I left a message explaining how Jude had tested positive for flu b 5 days ago and could I please get a tamiflu prescription called in.  I went home.  Fell asleep.  And awoke realizing the dr had never called me back.

So I called the local ER I had taken Jude where he was diagnosed.  The doctor on duty at the time said to just call someone to call in the prescription for tamiflu if I got it, because there was no need to test me.  Called them.  Different dr on duty.  They thought I was crazy for even requesting a prescription be called in.

Next, I picked up Jude from his sitter and debated on what to do next.  Should I try to drag him (who was still tired and cranky from being at his school all day) to the minute clinic or go tomorrow after I dropped him off.  Finally decided to go that night.  Got to CVS.  They were not accepting more patients.  Frustrated.

Came home.  Was laying on the couch, feeling generally achy and miserable, when I got a text.  From Walgreens.  Saying my prescription was ready.  I mean I literally didn't even know what to do.  Was this a mistake?  Did they refill a presciption for me on accident?  Should I hope against hope it was my tamiflu?  I called them and all they were able to tell me was that my dr had called it in that afternoon.

Talk about 1000 gifts.  I guess they just failed to call me back, but there was my prescription waiting for me.  Didn't have to pay for a doctors visit.  Didn't have to sit with Jude in a waiting room.  Didn't have to wake up the next morning to drag myself to a waiting room.

Instead I got to start tamiflu within 12 hours of getting the flu!  I got to spend all of Friday sleeping off, which honestly was the best.  And here I am Saturday night feeling pretty run down, but I haven't run fever since Thursday.

The amount of love I feel just in the way God everyday provides in the little things is astounding.  Really.  What are the chances of this happening?  God knew what I needed.  He knew my doctor was calling it in.  And he sovereignly allowed the ER doctor to not work out and cvs to not work out, because he already had me taken care of :)

Loved and Lovely

The Fontenot Four

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Taking Heart- Anxiety

Jude and I last Christmas- right before my usual worrisome self turned to straight out anxiety

For most of my life, I have probably been prone to worry about oh everything.  I could (and still can) be very self conscious, not about myself physically, more the inside person.  I would dwell on all the what ifs and fears and possibilities.  Thankfully, it was partly anxiety that led me to Christ.  However, as I've come to realize, Christ was never a quick fix.  He is, however, a steady and faithful fix.

Fast forward, the years of a traumatic marriage, a difficult delivery, a traumatic divorce, and the reality of single parenting/extreme title 1 teaching/a lack of family, and the usual worries that I struggle with turned to actual anxiety attacks.  Panic attacks.  Last year about this time, I began to really struggle with just absolute panic related to being alone and what if what if what if something happened to me.  Praise God, I reached out to my doctor and humbled myself enough to get a prescription, which when needed, helps me immensely.  But the other beautiful thing, is that it allowed God to bring me to further trusting him.  That kind of panic can really, truly feel like the shadow of death.

I've been doing good for the last year, and then the other night, it just hit me.  I couldn't sleep for the sheer fear.  I'm not even 100% sure what I was afraid of.  Partly being alone.  Partly it just felt like an attack.  I have literally nothing to complain about in life.  And it just hit me out of nowhere.  Normally, its been like a snow ball that builds and becomes huge.  Not an ambush like it was last night.  And I kept thinking "if I can get this paralyzed by fear, how could I ever think I could go to Turkey, or Morocco, or Guatemala?"  Which if that is what I'm doubting, that is a spiritual warfare attack.

I asked for prayer yesterday via facebook, and was wonderfully humbled by the # of people praying for me.  I have truly felt covered today.  This morning I felt like there was so much darkness and I just couldn't feel God's presence.  This was so hard for me.  I prayed that God would just show me He was there.  I went to get my roll of index cards.  (Back when I was struggling through the shame of divorce,  I would write promises on these cards and carry them with me everywhere.  Anytime doubt crept in, and it was often, I would go to these verses and just read them over and over.) I turned to one randomly in the middle this morning just to have something to meditate on.  It happened to be the verse I know my pastor used to survive depression :)  Isn't that just like God?

You hem me in- behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me... even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
~ Psalm 139: 5, 12

Anxiety can feel like darkness closing in, but praise God, it's not dark to Him.  He has me surrounded on all sides with His love, and He sees it all so clearly.  He knows the way out, and I simply just have to fall into his arms and let Him carry me.  I felt so comforted after He reminded me of that verse.  And the rest of the day went well, to his glory!

In other news, I finished Joshua and Titus this morning.  I was flipping through Joshua and I just don't know where to start because it's just so full of good applications.  Look for that in the next days.  And then also one on Titus.  But for now, I leave you with two of my favorite promises from Joshua that fit so well with anxiety.

Be strong and courageous, Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. ~ Joshua 1:9

You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed.  Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. ~ Joshua 23: 14

For those of you who read this, while today was a good day, anxiety is a constant struggle.  Both because of my own self, and because Satan knows this can get to me, and he seeks to destroy.  Please know your prayers are coveted daily.  Let me know how I can pray for you too.  Do you struggle with anxiety?  How do you find God helps you through it?

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Great Sacrifice

First off- I need to figure out what to do about google adding me into "screwed over because I've used 1g of storage" list.  Any advice on that is appreciated.  Boo!  The above picture is one that happens to have been uploaded into my google plus account, but honestly.  I have no idea how to work computers.  So here is a random one from this spring.

Second- today I will just be honest and say I've struggled with a lack of peace.  It's related to absolutely nothing- which is typically the case with me.  I just struggle with anxiety sometimes, so I've been trying today to just remember to refocus on Christ.  The amazing thing about today was that God was so faithful to allow my kids to just be pleasant albeit crazy because it's close to Christmas.  It really was a good day, I just felt the old familiar anxious tension in my body.  I read a couple blogs today that reminded me that this is not my home and that I am seeking peace in Christ alone.  Which always helps.

Third- I finished 2 Timothy this weekend.  Here are the verses that most stuck out to me:

2:9 But God's Word is Not Chained (I am called to live the gospel daily.  I have no idea the eternal ramifications of what I say and do.  That is both humbling/scary and exciting/humbling.)

2:14-16 Warn them against quarreling about words... Present yourself to God as one approved... Avoid godless chatter (makes me question some of the doctrine arguments that plaque the church, and makes me wonder about godless chatter and how much I waste my time with silly, mundane things that just don't advance the gospel or bring God glory...)

4:6 For I am being poured out like a drink offering... 

4:17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and ALL the Gentiles might here it. (Oh praise the one who promises such great things.  And that I get to experience the divine Presence in my life!  Christianity is such a blessed amazing life)

I have had a lot of thoughts on Christian life since I guess I started 1 Thessalonians.  I haven't really gone into them, because they seem so controversial almost.  But I am going to go ahead with some things I've been thinking here tonight.

I wrote a blog post a couple months back while I was in Leviticus called Chasing the Fire.  Leviticus was completely transformational for my life in the sense that saying things like "my life is a sacrifice for Christ" actually meant something.  So many Christian colloquialisms easily become trite.  Leviticus put some of those into a raw perspective.  When Paul refers to himself as a drink offering, that is a Levitical reference.  This was poured onto fire and consumed.  It was raw and painful and involved death of something.  Today we are freed from the law, but the sacrifice is still raw, painful, and involves death.  It's just the death of us.

And in America, what are we really putting to death?  How are we really being poured out?  We live in the most blessed country in so many ways.  We want for very little.  Even our secular Christmas stations tout gospel references for the entire public while even the Christians spend exhorbitant amounts of money on gifts none of us need.  Drink offering?

According to The Joshua Project there are close to 3 billion unreached people in the world.  Unreached does not mean non Christians.  That means they have never heard the name 'Jesus'.  While we sit here and listen to What Child Is This on your Christmas station, they have never heard anything at all about it.  Ever.  All these beautiful people in the world.  And they've never heard.  This comes down to about 7-8k people groups.  That's really not a lot.  I mean in America where millions of Christians go to their snazzy megachurches while driving their BMWs and sipping their lattes, there are 8,000 people dying to hear.  Surely if we megachurch attenders got together we could find enough people to go, right?

I understand that there is a need for Christians in places like America to fund missionaries.  I do.  But I have to ask myself, should there really be a shortage of people willing to pour themselves out raw unto death to share?  8,000 doesn't seem like it should be that hard to reach.  Yet we aren't anywhere close.

Churches love to discuss what spiritual gifts really mean, and how to be a better father, and how does the church interact with politics.  Those are all fine things.  But are they prompting us to pour ourselves out as a drink offering for a world that's dying?

To be fair, I don't think you have to move to Iran to pour yourself out.  But I do think all of us could look at our lives and question the excesses.  All things are loss compared to the surpassing knowledge of Christ.  And while I certainly believe that God is sovereign and can call people to all nations and purposes as He chooses, I have to say, there is definitely a need in the American church at large for true frantic-ness for getting the gospel to all these people.  Or even just a frantic-ness for our own country, sometimes our own churches.  There are lots of hurt, dying to know people that needa drink offering sacrificed for them.

Here is a really good blog about this topic as well.

I am also a huge huge fan of Voices of the Martyrs.  They send out free publications.  I can honestly say I wasn't mission minded prior to getting those.  They have completely changed my perspective.  And I just feel like God continues to redefine and refine my desires and my views on missions.  But that's a post for another day :)

I don't know what this looks like in your life.  I don't even know what it looks like in mine, except that I am growing ever more burdened for the people of the world, realizing that the Christian life is a lot more than my cute new boots and my cute new journal. I know that my life is meant to be poured out- in some way.  The question is how does God want to pour me out for the gospel?  I do know this, wherever the Lord directs me and whatever He asks me to do, I am willing to be sacrificed.  And I reckon thats a good start.

How do you think God wants to use you to reach the world?

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Covered in Grace

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Thankful Thursday

A little late, I know.  But we've actually had a rough few days.  This week's Thankful Thursday is almost an act of obedience, as opposed to an overflow.  Know what I mean?

1.  I am thankful that Jude is alive and that I've been given 3+ years with him.  He will forever and always be one of my greatest gifts, next to salvation.  My atonement child.  The one person who more than any other proved to me the depth and breadth of Christ's love for me, while I was yet a sinner.  This week I have been overcome with the brutal reality of death of children.  I don't know why I was blessed with 3 years, but each one is truly a gift.

2.  I am thankful that I found out Jude had the flu within 24 hrs and that I was able to get him on tamiflu so quickly.  I am praying praying praying that he recovers quickly with this.  And that I manage to skate by without catching it.  Next year, I will actually force myself to get a flu shot.

3.  I'm thankful for Duck Dynasty.  Yes I said that.  It cheers me up, and honestly, it's pretty clean television.  They use words like "crap" and they end every show with a family dinner and blessing.  It's hard to find entertaining tv that acknowledges God in general.  Also, it's stinkin hilarious.

4.  I am thankful for all my friends at work, with whom I share a whole variety of laughs.  I am thankful for a friend I was able to laugh hysterically with for 5 minutes upon discovering a mutual love of Duck Dynasty.  I am thankful for my co leader who walks through each moment of teaching with me.  I am thankful for my team members who are also my friends.  And I am thankful that so many of us want to come together to pray and encourage each other, even if finding coordinating schedules may be difficult.

5.  I am thankful that the Christmas Season.  The excitement of thinking about just what it means to have "God with us" and among us.  I can't imagine my life without Christ's presence.  So thankful the veil has been torn and I get to worship him fully.

6.  I am thankful for the inspiration of Christian biographies.  I've been Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God by Noel Piper this week.  I can hardly put it down.  It's so exciting to read these thoughts of Christian women and how they gave up their lives to put their family or the gospel first.  I pray my own life is truly useful for the gospel. 

7.  I am thankful for one of the funniest students alive who I get the priviledge to teach.  The other day I had a student get into a small fight, so he got sent to the office.  He was kinda worried about going home.  "Coco" (her actual nickname) tells him "Psh its ok.  Alls you gotta do is wear double underwears.  I do that.  Just make sure you fake cry.  My momma gets MAD if I don't cry!"  And with that laugh I leave you...

Loved and Lovely

The Fontenot Four

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Praise Him when it Hurts

This morning I finished Psalms (didn't think I'd ever get here.  seriously) and 1 Timothy.  It is impossible for me to even begin to sum up the things I've learned from Psalms.  So many.  Overall, I think I like the constant reminder to praise God the most.  Praise God when your life is in danger.  Praise God when you are terrified.  Praise God when life is going perfectly.  Praise God when you are overwhelmed.  Praise God when he seems like He's not there.  Praise God when you have no doubt He Is there.  David so beautifully lives this life of praise and thanksgiving- no matter the circumstances in his life.  How often do we get caught up in all the little things adding up and forget to praise God?  How often do we question why God is doing what He's doing, the way He's doing it, His timing?  Yet even in those moments of darkness and question, we should find ourselves falling onto our sure foundation that God is good.  That He loves us.  And when we stop to remind ourselves of all the gifts God has given, even when the earth gives way, how can we doubt his goodness and his love?  We just can't.  His love is too immeasurable, too beyond our imagination.  If we can do nothing else, we can praise Him.  I love that.

My favorite verse in 1 Timothy goes along really well with this idea.

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. ~ 1 Timothy 4: 4-5

It's the thanks that makes us able to receive everything.  The thanks that helps us understand its good.  The thanks helps us use the gift wisely.  The thanks humbles us and reminds us to share the gifts we have.  The thanks helps us accept the things that don't make sense.  The thanks helps us live through the pain.  There is so much we so hastily want to reject in life because it hurts or its uncomfortable or it doesn't fit our personality or whatever.  Yet if we believe in the holiness, the goodness, the sovereignty of God, we should consider it good.  We shouldn't reject any of those things, but receive them with thanksgiving.  With a Yes, Lord, I will follow you there.  I trust you there.  I believe you created all things good and you hold me even there.  When we give thanks for it all we are consecrating the situation/our lives as holy and we are worshipping.  Thanks is what allows us to take any situation and accept it as good.  Because we know Him who has made it, and He is good.

I know from experience that it can be scary and oh how it can hurt.  But I also know that the strength of God's presence in those times is worth more than all the things I want.  I love the story of Joseph.  So much fear and pain and rejection and loneliness dominated his life.  I can't imagine 40 years of just straight pain.  Yet he always knew God was faithful.  One of my favorite life verses for pain is this:

Genesis 50: 19-20 ~ But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid.  Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

I love the thought that my pain is being used to save many lives.  Sometimes there isn't much comfort to be seen.  But you can know that God is good.  And you can know that God orchestrates the beautiful saving gospel through pain.  After all, the gospel and salvation came through the death of His own Son.

Into The Word Wednesdays

Becky at Tales of Beauty for Ashes
Kelly at The Houtz House Party
Falen at Upward Not Inward 
Kelly at Exceptionalistic

Monday, December 3, 2012

Confessions of a Title 1 teacher

-- and other things that have me irritated....

So for those of you who know or don't know I teach at a very low income school.  This is what I wanted to do from the get go.  I always wanted to teach kids from difficult backgrounds and change lives, etc.  And I've done it for the last 5+ years.  I've learned an awful lot about patience and my own struggles with compassion.  At the end of the year, I am always so amazed with how far I get the kids to come.  But there are just those moments that they just make me cry.

Like right now.  Because I have a thief.  I've had a pressure ball stolen.  Some of my Christmas gel clings have been stolen.  And then today, half of my Christmas cookies that were a gift from a teacher were stolen.  I don't even know how they manage to do this.  But its just depressing.  Maybe I'm being silly.  I know they don't have a lot of food, toys, anything at home.  But why must they steal to get it.  It's just so wrong you know.  And I don't know who it is to teach them.  It seems like I have one every year who does this...

It just makes me so disappointed and angry at the same time.  Loving them is hard...  And yet at the same time, I absolutely adore each one...  Complicated mess.

In other fun news: I got to dress 'grunge' like for twin day at school.  I happen to own the most perfectly destroyed in the knees jeans.  I've worn those bad boys so thin and I love it.  However, they also have a worn slightly inappropriate hole on my thigh, which I taped for school.  Winning.

Jude and I finished getting our house decorated (inside only).  The most adorable part of it is that I let him hang basically every ornament.  Some of them he couldn't figure out, so I would hang up.  But basically, he was in charge.  All our ornaments are congregated in the same 3 spots.  You can see one of his clusters up there.  So cute.  Such a gift that child is.

Last in honor of the 80* weather we are currently having in North Texas, Jude and I ate our breakfast on the porch yesterday morning.  It was lovely.  Bacon, eggs, and muffins are our usual weekend tradition.  But adding eating outside to the mix made it perfection.  Sure, I'd rather snow in December.  But it was a fun memory and I will take it any day.

Lastly, there is something else bothering me, but in avoidance of being rude, I will just say this.  I think that children's ministry is a very important thing for people to do.  I don't know if it gets overlooked because it doesn't seem to involve saving souls or what.  But I personally appreciate every person who's ever volunteered their time there.  First of all, Jude's prayers for the last year have included "Dear Jesus, thank you for saving me".  I didn't teach him that, and I really appreciate the leaders he has had for teaching him the most important part.  He learns great things from Sunday School.  Things that are building the right foundation.  And as a single parent, I really need people like that in his life, helping me.  If per se the 3 year old room is too full, he misses those great foundational lessons for another week (or more if we were to continue to get there and the room be full).  Second, for me going to church is like another round of chemo.  I desperately desperately need that recharge, that worship time where I'm just communing in the Presence of God.  When I have to take Jude in with me, there's no worship being done.  Honestly.  Very little.  I spend all my time dealing with Jude.  And growing overwhelmed.  It just gets my week started off all wrong.  I don't know how to fully express how much I need church in my life.  But it depends on people who are watching Jude while I worship.  Thirdly, its foundational to the family unit.  When the parents get to recenter themselves and focus on God, they are able to lead the family the right way.  So all this to say, children's ministry really is important.  If you aren't serving in the church, I suggest it.  I for one, am quite grateful for those who do.

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Covered in Grace
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Thursday, November 29, 2012

To see Christ glorified

Today I'm thankful for:

* the sight of kiddos working together on some math problems
* a crazy student who made it halfway down the hall without shoes before realizing she in fact didn't have on shoes
* Jude asking if he can tell me a story.  Which he proceeds to make up.
* A short conversation with my sister, who I will get to see this weekend
* the fact that Jimmy can bring up a song and it can lead in to an entire theological conversation.  I love talking about 'deeper' things, and it's lovely to have my soul nourished and thinking like that
* candle light in the windows
* my Christmas cards which came in today
* the handmade snowflakes which are currently hanging from the ceiling of my classroom
* an afternoon of Bible verse sharing with some of my favorite teachers.  And encouraging each other to love our kids a little better.
* getting to share the joy through my friends moments with their kids

Thoughts on 2 Thessalonians:

1: 11-12  With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.  We pray this so that the name of the Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, acccording to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I read these verses and thought about what it meant to allow Jesus to be glorified in me.  Jesus' glorification came through his resurrection.  He conquered death and then showed His Father's power through that.  For me to show Christ as glorified is to show Him in his resurrected state.  To show his victory over sin and death.  His glorification is the very crux of the gospel.  The gospel is the hope of Christ's glorification and resurrection over all that enslaves us.  For me to allow Christ to be glorified in me, I need to be showing his power at work in me.  I need to be constantly sharing how I can't but Christ can.  I need to be boasting in my weaknesses because in those moments Christ's resurrection shines forth.  Yesterday, I mentioned being freed for a purpose- to praise God.  But I think these verses show what I'm praising God for.  Praise God, Christ is risen.  Praise God, Christ conquered the sin in my life.  Praise God, that these weaknesses no longer control me.  Praise God, Christ is in me- in all his glory- and my shame and fear is gone.  No. Longer. There.  There is only Christ, Christ glorified.  If I am always remembering who I was before Christ and who I am now in Christ, I will always be glorifying and praising the One who saved me.

I can't praise God and show Christ as glorified without humbling myself, though.  I have to be willing to set aside all praise and love of others for His glory.  When people tell me I'm a good mom or a good teacher, the things I want to think are mine, I have to lay them down for the glorification of Christ.  And acknowledge that the good you see is Christ alone.  Christ glorified in me, changing me.  Showing that God's power really can resurrect the dead.  It resurrected and is resurrecting me.  People today can't witness the original Resurrection.  But they can witness my life.  They can watch me allow myself to be transformed by the grace of God from one controlled by greed or pride or bitterness and see me become someone who lives with their eyes on Jesus, always thanking Him for the grace and the resurrection.  I want to live, truly live.  And that can only really be found in the one who brings life from nothing.

To live IS Christ.

Loved and Lovely
The Fontenot Four

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Freed for a Purpose

This week (and many weeks lately, honestly) I have been overcome with how much beauty there is in life.  I mean this world is just so achingly beautiful.  I have literal aches in my heart because I don't know if I can stand the way I feel about things.  And its just random things.  Like this view out my classroom window.  I love that bright red tree in the middle.  I love the way my room is so high and I can look out and see the yellowing trees stretching for miles.  I love the yellow brown prairie grasses that are everywhere round here.  I love the grey clouds blanketing the early morning sky.  I love the steam rising from the roofs.  I love branches laid bare waiting for winter.  

Today I saw the most perfect full moon over the hillsides as I was on my way to drop off Jude.  So bright and full and I would have given anything to capture it.  I could cause wrecks on a daily basis with all the shots I want to take of grassfields and sunrises.  I really want to start carrying my good camera around and trying to take more pictures.  But pictures or not, I am just so awed by the glory of each new day.

During my quiet time today, I read Joshua 10, Psalm 143 and 2 Thessalonians 2.  I will touch on Thessalonians in a couple days since I will finish that book tomorrow morning.  However, a couple verses in Psalm 143 really spoke to me today, and honestly Joshua 10 tied in to it.  It's really interesting to me how often each chapter I read seems to flow together.  God's amazing like that, ya know?

Psalm 143: 5, 7- You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living... 
Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.

I am just amazed more and more each day by how very little I really need.  The Lord is our portion in the land of the living.  That means He is what we need on this earth.  We are so quick to place high importance on people we love, things we love, places we love.  But none of those things are our portion.  And the reality is, if taken too seriously (ie worshipped) even the good things become our prison.  I am so thankful each day that the Lord shows me how He is the only thing worth gaining.  I feel so free from so many things.  

The past 2 years of divorce and single parenthood have nothing short of a fight for freedom.  The beautiful thing though, was it was never me fighting.  It was always the Lord fighting these thoughts and feelings and people and everything for me.  (see Joshua 10:25- do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.  be strong and courageous.  This is what the Lord will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.)  He's freed me from so much- and still freeing me.  There has been such joy in being freed from the need to be trendy, which has been the current prison.  The freedom of self control.  The freedom of not worrying as much about money.  The freedom of being able to give to others more than before.  The freedom of having my mind being directed to Christ every time I feel myself going down the familiar path of "I want".  I really perceived that this cutting back the excesses was going to be a true 'sacrifice' on my part.  And I guess, at the beginning, it was.  But as I move forward, there is no sacrifice about it.  Just joy.  I love how Christ continually places the things I think I'm losing with more of Him, more joy.

Set me free from my prison that I may praise your name...

I was freed for a purpose.  I was freed from marriage for a purpose.  I was freed from worthlessness thoughts for a purpose.  I was freed from materialism for a purpose.  I was freed from discontent for a purpose.  I was freed from codependence for a purpose.  So many things.  The question is what do I do with this freedom.  I praise the Lord, my Redeemer, my Savior.  Because the testimony of the redeemed has been the only thing that's ever changed the world in the first place.  

I don't know where I'm going from here.  But I know what I'm going to do.  I'm going to praise the Lord.  In the morning.  When I'm doing cafeteria duty.  When I'm telling students to sit on their pockets for the umpteenth time.  When I'm smiling.  When I'm listening to a story.  When I'm having coffee.  When I'm reading to Jude.  Whenever and wherever.  That is where my purpose is for that moment.  Each second I have a purpose.  Praise the one who set me free.

Into The Word Wednesdays


Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Thoughts on 1 Thessalonians

One of my Christmas card pictures- kinda love it

Today was our first day back from Thanksgiving break.  It went well all things considering.  Highlight- I let my kids share 1 thing they did over the break if they so desired.  One of my little friends went on and on about his girlfriend from Sherman.  Um he's 7.  Literally referred to her as his girlfriend 4 times. Giggle.  Sigh.  Love them.

Also, I am currently excited about the cold front moving in.  I had to stay late today to finish up a 2 hr course on how to use time out and restraint (yes you read that right) so it was getting dark on my ride home.  I just was amazed by the darkening clouds rolling in with the cold air, the trees with just a few yellow and red leaves hanging on.  So much beauty y'all.  Who would have thought my drive to the country would bring such blessings?  I mean daily.

Anyway, this morning I finished 1 Thessalonians.  Amazing.  Convicting.  Inspiring.  One of the things that stuck out to me at the beginning of the book was just how often faith is driving these churches reputation.  This is pretty much all of chapter 1, but I think verse 8 clinches it for me, "your faith in God has become known everywhere."  As in all those countries on the mediterranean.  They know about this one church's faith.  How profound!  How humbling!  It seems like American churches are known for two things: 1) the preacher and 2) the size.  But the faith of the people attending- not as much.  Are you defining your church or is your church defining you?  I'm pretty sure that I have a lot of room to grow in order to have a reputation based on my faith.

In general, I just found this book really encouraging.  It kind of reoriented me as to my focus, my goal as far as daily life as a Christian.  I'm supposed to be keeping my eyes on Jesus, trying to make choices that bring him glory, loving and encouraging those around me, and just making my life my ministry, my voice.  I really found 4:11-12 interesting.  It talks about making your ambition to live a quiet life, working with your hands, earning respect of others, and not being dependent on anyone.  It's so countercultural to all things American.  Who's goals consist of a quiet, hardworking, respectable life?  Not really a lot of people.  But that should be a focus for the Christian, according to this verse.  And really, how gracious is our God to not expect us to drive ourselves to exhaustion.  He expects us to be average in our worldly pursuits, but strive hard for holiness and knowing him more.  I don't know, maybe I'm weird, but I find such comfort in knowing the "American dream" doesn't need to be my dream.  At least not in an over the top materialistic way.  Maybe it's the hippie in me :)

And finally, a controversial call to thought: vs 19-20 Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt.  I have an issue with the whole denominations of the church thing.  Why are there two 'Holy Spirit' alternatives (basically)?  You either have to go to one extreme where you only focus on the Holy Spirit or you go to the other extreme where you rarely acknowledge the Holy Spirit. By mathematical logic, I'm going to assume each part of the Trinity has equal daily relevance.  Which means the Holy Spirit should receive 33% of the focus, Christ 33%, and the Father 33%.  Rough estimate.  I personally don't think any extreme has the answers.  I just think that there should be some convergence on this issue.  There should be fire.  The question is what proportion.  And for that, I don't have the answer.  

And to close on my favorite note.   5:16-18 are beautiful reminders as always of just what this daily life looks like as it's played out.  The joy in the simple everyday gifts of a quiet life and hard work.  The joy of praying and being in  God's presence continually.  Just being thankful always for everything.  Literally everything.  So much simple joy in the Christian life, and isn't that what everyone is craving?  It's right here in Christ.

miscellany monday at lowercase letters        
Covered in Grace
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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wreck Em Weekend

This weekend was basically awesome in all the right ways.  My family was together and we were able to knock out some family Christmas pics, which are uploading as we speak.  Can't wait to get those Christmas cards done!  And bonus they came out pretty cute for once.  We took them around downtown McKinney where they had a ton of cute Christmas stuff going on.  Recommend.  Here are a couple of shots of me and Jude- not the ones I will actually be using on our card though.  I will put those up another time.

On Me: scarf- no idea, cardigan- Old Navy, T shirt- Charlotte Russe, jeans- levis, heals- no idea
On Jude: shirt- Old Navy, corduroys- Children's Place, shoes- Converse
Side note- in the pics below, the heels totally came off and were replaced with my trusty converse- my shoe love of my life.

Top Left: Me and my sister Megan.  Top Right: Me and my brother Joel
Bottom Left: Me and Jimmy.  Bottom right: Megan and Bryan

After pictures, I went with my brother, my sister, her husband, and my bf to The Hub- which is a pretty awesome bar owned by Texas Tech alumni.  We watched Tech vs Baylor, which was a real shoot out. Unfortunately Tech lost, but it was awesome to just be watching football and drinking and eating and just generally being with some of my favorite people in the world.  We laughed.  Megan and I sang old Alpha Chi songs upon realizing my brothers gf was also an Alpha Chi.  The guys all rolled their eyes.  It was awkward and amazing.  And of course every time Tech scored the bar crowd errupted in a little fight song and Raider! Power! action.  Always a win.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Grace upon grace

This summer I started reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  I started rereading it shortly after school started this fall.  In the course of my life, there have been 3 books that have really, truly changed my life.  The Bible, Breaking Free by Beth Moore, and One Thousand Gifts.  The premise is seeing each moment of your life as God's grace, a gift from a good and loving Father.  Even when its chaotic and overwhelming, or scary, or sad, or hurtful, there is grace to be had.  For me, its just not the way I looked at each second of my life.  I've never been one to allow myself to see the good in difficult.  I don't think that comes natural to anyone.  But since this summer, I've been challenging myself to change my thinking.  

I can see God doing good things in my heart with regards to thankfulness.  When you are on this search for all these gifts in the every day, you heart is always more open and receptive and willing to see.  See the good, the beautiful- even when it's ugly.  I can feel the change in just the peace and joy I do have.  And I am really only at the threshold of this journey. 

I've listed gifts since this summer.  I think I'm on about 470.  But the truth is, I see all these gifts all the time I never remember to write down because I'm in the car or I'm not by pencil and paper.  It's still beautiful because even though I am not physically writing these things down, my heart is stopping.  Stopping to smile, to thank God for the moment, to be all in right where I am receiving the joy of the now.  And just worship this loving God who fills my life with grace upon grace upon grace.  My eyes are so much more open now to all He's doing around me, to the way he loves me, to the way he blesses us all.  

Thanksgiving is just not supposed to be once a year.  Christians are called to a life of thanksgiving.  We just seem to forget that.  It's a hard way to live.  Constantly choosing to thank God when it's hard and when it's easy.  Life gets busy and you forget.  I'm still struggling with thanking God in the midst of the crazy that is my classroom at 1:30.  (my kids just don't have the attention span past then.  things become overwhelming.  but there are still gifts to be had.)  But I have seen the difference thanking God through the moments has made.  The littlest things now bring me the greatest joy.  I've missed so much in my 28 years, but praise God, my eyes are now open to the little gifts, the big gifts, and hopefully one day soon, the painful gifts and the busy gifts.  


 Thankful for a little boy who's creative and playful.  I'm thankful to have my house full of his life.  Thankful that even stickers on my dishwasher remind me of him and all the gifts he is....

 Thankful for my family, the way we have traditions, that holidays have this predictable flavor each year.  I love knowing Thanksgiving and Christmas will be full of food followed by games and laughter.  I'm thankful that we are actually really close.  That my siblings are some of my best friends.  That I know my entire time on this earth will be blessed with them.

Thankful that sometimes Jude pulls me aside to read to me.  I'm thankful that I've gotten better about allowing myself to stop 'doing things around the house' to just sit with him and soak up all his preschool beauty.  Because this moment I can never get back.  And I could have passed it up to clean.  I'm realizing how being Martha vs Mary like does not just apply to Jesus, but so many things in life.  Taking time to be present with Jude is worshipful and leads me to thank Jesus for all I'm blessed with.   

Thankful for those little moments that make you laugh.  Jude snuck a whole box of Cars bandaids under here.  I guess he knew he wouldn't be given them to play with.  But it makes me laugh to see all he thinks of to do.  I' m thankful he's usually such an agreeable kid.  God has really blessed me with him.  

I have a million of these little moments that just come along and I enjoy them and thus worship God.  Life is full of them.  Oh how I challenge you to list the good in your life- even if it seems trivial.  (examples- post its of every color, cows in a field at sundown, black crows on a fence, steam from a hot tea cup...)  It's amazing the change in attitude that comes with thankfulness.  You are surrounded by grace upon grace.  You just have to open your eyes to see it...

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you...

~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

The Fontenot Four
Loved and Lovely

Monday, November 19, 2012

Love the Christian, Love the World

So for those of you that have read my last few posts, I've mentioned how I'm currently reading through the Bible.  And if you follow me on instagram (thistleashd) you definitely know, since I post pictures every time I start a new book.  It's pretty encouraging for myself to do that, sorry if they aren't interesting to you :)  I'm loving reading through the Bible for about 84,000 reasons.  I've learned so much.  My current goal is to blog about whatever book I just finished- the different things that stuck out to me.  Hopefully this will get me to actually blog more.


1:4- We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints...  Being at this point in the Bible, I've read several of Paul's letters.  Without fail he consistently admonishes, encourages, commends the churches for their love of all saints.  That means their love to other Christians.  Now I am in no way saying we are not supposed to love non Christians with what I'm about to say.  However, how often are we really evaluating ourselves or trying to grow in our love of other Christians?  Yet, that is solely what Paul stresses.  Honestly, at this point, Paul has not stressed love of the poor at all.  He stresses sharing the gospel, but not "loving" them in our post modern, tolerance based understanding of it.  He stresses loving our church members.  And really, with good reason.  The church has a terrible reputation for not loving each other.  In my own experience, I have cried many tears over feeling like I'm less accepted within churches simply because I don't come off as quite as conservative as other Christians.  There is nothing more hurtful than having the body of Christ reject you because you don't fit their mold.  We are so good at trying so hard to love the people outside of the church who are different, we forget that God has called a variety of people to be a part of his body.  Or that the people like myself who appear more edgy and less conservative have a vital role to play within evangelism.  There are a whole lot of people in this world I can reach better than Suzy Christian in her cardigan.  And there are a whole lot of people that Suzy Christian can reach better than me.  We are unified because of our faith.  We need to love Christians for their faith- not how much they act like us.

4:5-6 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone...  I surrounded these verses with stars.  If the 1:4 is what directs our love for other Christians, these verses direct our love for non Christians.  How do we truly love the lost?  We are wise in our actions.  We make the most of the opportunity.  I don't think that this means we have to be super legalistic and avoid certain things so we look holy.  Rather, wherever you go and whatever you do, you should use that as an opportunity to share the gospel.  Being a good friend is not sharing the gospel.  The gospel is that we are lost, beyond our ability to save ourselves, and separated from God who is holy.  God in his grace sent his Son to cover our sins with his death.  We are given the opportunity to know God deeply and enter his presence and be freed from sin.  So if I am at happy hour with the non Christian, my job is to allow my love and gratitude for Christ to flow freely as I talk.  It really should be logical.  My day is full of the grace of God.  He sustains me during stress.  He encourages me when I'm overwhelmed.  He is so much a part of my day.  How can I share my day with a friend and NoT share what the gospel has meant for me that day?  How can I not acknowledge that it's the continual saving grace over my life that makes each day possible?  My conversation should be seasoned with grace, because my life is seasoned with grace.  I get asked all the time how I manage to do what I do as a single mom.  The answer is the gospel.  God's grace comes in to my life and gives me the strength to do what I could not do on my own.  The salt is the acknowledging the gospel truth.  Not shying away from the intensity that a Christian's life should be.  Salt goes through food and enhances everything.  Christ is in my life and enhances my everything.  The gospel should be the Christian's life.  In Christ, we live the day to day, we move from seemingly ordinary event to ordinary event, we ourselves are centered in Christ.  If we are recognizing the way the gospel is our every second of every day, our interaction is all Christ, all gospel, all true love for the world.

What do you think?  How do you feel you should interact with the Christian and the non Christian?