Reason to celebrate

Yesterday was such an amazing day of celebration. First and foremost, we celebrated Easter – Resurrection Day! The day the we declare that the tomb was empty, Jesus had risen and in that we find our freedom. We gathered at our house later in the afternoon to hunt Easter eggs and share a meal together. But we also celebrated being together. It had been more than a year since we had broken bread with my parents. We had shared some driveway visits over the last year, and lots of FaceTime calls, but we had not been in the same room for more than 365 days! I had not felt a hug from my mom and daddy for over 12 months!

So we gathered, my parents, Chris’ parents, and our girls. We missed having Zach and Katie, and our siblings and nieces and nephews. And we hope that someday soon we can ALL gather together. But we enjoyed the precious time we did have with those who were able to be together. We laughed. We talked. And we listened. Sometimes we just sat – perfectly content with the silence of each other’s company.

The lesson we will take away is a lesson that many of us have learned through this incredibly challenging year. We learned to not take for granted the time we have with those we love. We learned to take every opportunity to be present with each other. I am so thankful for those lessons.

Waiting for Sunday

It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming. This is phrase has been all over social media this week as we get ready to celebrate Easter the the resurrection of our Lord. This phrase has also been on my mind a lot. It is so powerful. I try to imagine what Jesus’ close friends and followers were feeling on this day – the day between His death and when He rose from the dead. I’m certain they felt a huge sense of hopelessness. They must have felt confused and perhaps even a bit lost. Fear was probably surging through them as they wondered what the last few years had been about. Confusion most likely have them questioning all that they had seen while closely following Jesus and His teachings.

Obviously, I can only speculate on the way Jesus’ friends and followers were feeling. However, I feel like being human, just like them, I can fairly make these assumptions. Thinking about this phrase, “It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming” I understand, to some extent what that waiting feels like. Of course, I cannot fathom in on the same level by any means, but I think that there are some real parallels for me and maybe for you too!

This week for me personally has been especially troubling. I was blindsided by two events – both personally and professionally – and I feel like this week has been my Friday. (Please know that I am not in any way comparing my troubles to Jesus’ death – just drawing a parallel!) Stay with me. When faced with the uncertainty of the week’s news, I have been hit with a mix of so many emotions. Fear of the unknown, hopelessness, confusion, and questions. I’ve wondered why? I’ve asked how? I’ve spent sleepless nights tossing and turning while worry envelops me. Trying to find some peace in all of it, God has gently reminded me that He is in control. He has sweetly whispered to me to remember that Sunday is coming. He’s pulled me closer in the waiting and comforted me with the reminder of the answers that Sunday brought.

In our daily lives, we must remember His faithfulness to His promises. He did not promise a trouble free, worry free, “easy” life. However, He did promise that He is always with us. He did promise that He will never forsake us, nor will He leave us. And when Sunday came, and Jesus walked out of that tomb…well, who can argue with the fulfillment of that promise. God is with us in our waiting.

I don’t know how either of the situations of this week will turn out. I don’t have all of the answers. But I do have ONE answer and it is this. God knows it ALL and He is in it ALL. He is constant and ever-present between our Fridays and our Sundays.

His Love

While mindlessly scrolling through Facebook today, I saw a saying about God’s unconditional love. It was one of those pretty pictures will a sunrise and a fancy script saying. I honestly don’t remember what the whole thing said because I couldn’t get past unconditional love. It’s been on my mind all day. Unconditional love. Without conditions. Without strings. Without hesitation. I think that I take that saying “unconditional love” for granted. I have heard it all my life about the way God loves His children. I almost think it’s one of those churchy phrases that I have listened to so many times that it has lost its power almost. But today, it hit me right in my heart house.

As mere humans, we truly can’t fathom that kind of love. Our society tosses around the word love so very flippantly and loosely that the word is almost tarnished. “Ooohhh, I LOVE your shoes!” Or how many times do we proclaim our love for an actor whom we have never met. And I promise that I have used that word when talking about ice cream (just last night as a matter of fact). But y’all, that unconditional love that comes from our Father is unmatched by anything we know here on Earth. Yes, we love our kids like our Father loves us – that is the closest we could ever come to understanding His love for us. But even then, it’s not exactly the same.

So why did it hit me today like it did? I’m not sure that I know, but I’m fairly certain that God slowed my scroll and stilled my mind long enough to get my attention. This morning I woke up still fighting my annual spring cold, feeling unrested and moderately grumpy. I did not want to get up and go to school. I even said to myself as I slovenly rolled out of bed “I don’t want to adult today. I just can’t.” I was sure that I did not have the energy needed to show up for a room full of 9 year olds. Basically, my attitude sucked. I truly didn’t think I could make it through the day, and I was mad at myself for my attitude. Maybe this is why God needed to get my attention.

His love for me – even with my ugly, early-morning grumblings – doesn’t waiver. When I’m not at my best He loves me – just as much as He does when I’m at my best. When I’m not as loving as I should be, He still loves me. When I stumble and lose my way, His love remains steadfast and strong. Why? How could He possibly STILL love me after all of my shortcomings and grumblings and doubts and fears. Because He can…Because HE IS LOVE.

There are so many worship songs that attempt to describe this love in many different ways. His love is extravagant, overwhelming, never-ending, reckless. His love never fails. It is unending. His love awakens. He loves me, this I know. And all of these songs are beautiful proclamations of our Father’s love. But I’m not sure that His unconditional love can fully be described and understood by us until we truly believe in our hearts that love is who God is. And we are His beloved. What if tomorrow we take carry that title “beloved” with us all day? How would that change the way we love others? How would our self-talk change if we started it with the name “Beloved”?

I’m so thankful for a God who listens to my heart when I don’t even know the words for what I need. I’m so thankful for His nudges (and at times, smack upside my head) to slow down and find Him at my center. Most of all, I am so thankful for His unconditional love.

My teacher heart

I have said from the very start of this school year that our students are going to remember it for the rest of their lives, so let’s make those memories amazing! Well this past week, my students did just that for me. I teach fourth grade. In all I have 60 students between the three homerooms. We have asked so much of these babies this year and they have risen to the occasion better than some (many) adults I know. They came back to a classroom setting that looked very different than any they had experienced in their short academic career. They came back after the trauma of missing the last part of the prior year and essentially living in a lockdown during a global pandemic. When they walked through our doors they couldn’t see our smiles and we couldn’t see theirs. They were not seated next to an elbow buddy or at a group table, but rather on their own little island that was at least 3 feet away from all classmates. Yet through all of that we have built a classroom community like none other I have ever had. They are kind to each other. They feel safe in our little room. They are caring and sweet and so very funny.

This past week my students had to spend two days taking our state standardized tests. Yet nothing about this year has been anywhere close to standard. The state felt it was the right thing to do to add just a little more pressure on these little minds by having them sit for tests that they may not be prepared for. It seems the state must have forgotten that these babies missed an entire quarter of the prior year and while we worked so hard to “close the gap” (I would be fine if I never heard this tag line ever again) we need more time. We didn’t need more testing. I don’t need test data to tell me what my kiddos need. I can tell you that from having spent every day with them since August.

Obviously, I did not let my students feel my disgust over them having to be tested. We chose to call it a “Celebration of Learning” – our chance to show next year’s teachers how hard we had worked all year. I was absolutely blown away by how my kids showed up and worked so hard. They made this teacher so proud. As I babbled and gushed about how proud I was to them when they were finished, one of them asked “Mrs. Taylor, is your teacher heart happy?”

Yes…this teacher heart is so very happy. I cannot express how much I love this group of kids. They make every day brighter in an all too dark world. And while I still completely disagree with the state’s decision to test them, I am celebrating with them for all that they have learned. And all that they have taught me.

It’s your breath

Have you ever noticed when you hear a word for the first time, or learn a new word, that it seems like you hear that word a lot more soon after? Or when you get a new car, it seems that you see way more of the same model on the road than you ever have before? It’s really about our awareness of something that brings it to our view in a more relevant way, but I think that the way our brains make this happen is pretty fascinating.

Recently I heard a worship song that I know has been around for quite a few years, but when I heard it, it hit me in a new way. Since listening to that song about a month ago, I am certain that I have heard it more in the last thirty days than in the the last ten years. But I believe the reality is that I am more tuned into the message of the song and that I need to hear it right now. I just get so blown away by how that works. However, I don’t think that this song speaking to me so clearly and so often is all about the way my mind is working. I know in my heart that God is at work here. No, I don’t think God is in charge of the K-Love playlist, nor do I think He is creating the worship set at my church. But I do think that He is trying to wreck me with this song by making sure my mind and heart is open to it every time I hear it.

The song is called “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons and Daughters. The chorus of the song has been playing on repeat in my head.

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only

I have heard this song so many times but somehow it is hitting me in an all new way. I have been thinking about His breath in my lungs. That breath is the breath I use to speak to my husband and my children. Those lungs provide the air I use to speak into the lives of my students. His breath in my lungs is how I speak to my colleagues. So, what do my words – carried by the breath He gives me – sound like. Am I pouring out praise with what He has given me? Or are my words harsh, not worthy of the breath He has given me? Is my spirit one of complaining and grumbling, or am I finding ways to be joyful and praise Him in all situations?

Riding in my car I sing this song with all of my heart, and most days it brings me to tears. My prayer is that with every breath I am given by my heavenly Father, that I am pouring out praise. Not only through my words – which can truly speak life into others – but also with my actions. I pray that others see Him at work in my life and that they hear my praises for Him pouring out of me.

I love when I still my mind and soul to take time to see God’s work in every aspect of my life. I know He is always here and that He is always at work. I just have to listen more closely to what He is telling me. Right now, that teaching is coming through the lyrics of a beautiful song that He knew I needed to hear. On repeat.

You might have to look for it

Just this morning, I wrote a blog post about enjoying joy. About appreciating the joy that is to be found around us in our lives. A few hours later I was sitting on the floor of my laundry room overwhelmed to the point of tears. Not tears of joy. These were tears of a momma who was teetering on the edge of hopelessness. Mommin’ ain’t easy. Somedays it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

So there I sat in the floor of my laundry room, surrounded by mountains of clothes (six people create a lot of dirty laundry) feeling like a big fat fraud. Where was my joy now? Didn’t I just post about how joyful life is and how all you have to do is look and find the joy? Now, to be totally transparent, I wasn’t crying about how much laundry I had to do. No, this was not about that. I will not share the details of what caused my meltdown – not because I am trying to hide my “ugly” – but out of respect for the privacy of others involved in the situation. And the situation is not really the point anyway.

The point is about joy. There are some moments where I am not naturally, organically overwhelmed with life’s joy. But that does not mean that it is not present. What it truly means is that I have lost my sight of it, while choosing to focus on the yucky stuff. My perspective shifted from being thankful for all of the good stuff, to wallowing in the muck that threatens to steal my joy. But here’s the thing….I am not at all saying that life should be rosy and rainbows every single day. I know that fact all too well. I think what I am trying to say (I’m discovering it as I type) is that even though life feels like a mess sometimes, and we as humans can feel way too caught up in the chaos, we don’t have to unpack and stay there. We can shift our perspective and choose to be happy in our circumstances. No, we don’t “fake it” and just act like everything is okay so that our friends and neighbors don’t judge us. No, we don’t bury our heads in the sand and not deal with the hard stuff because we want to dance around the house like a Disney princess. We face things, we learn to cope with things, we grow from things – all while we focus our eyes on the good stuff that we can hold on to.

I guess what all of my rambling here really means is that when you find yourself sitting on your laundry room floor crying and feeling like you just might drown – its okay. You are not alone! Just don’t camp out there too long because you might miss out on the goodness that there is out there for you!