"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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