My Daily Bread

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Every morning I begin my day with my quiet time. I rise about 5 am, start the coffee pot and get my stack of books from the shelf and spend about an hour reading, writing, and praying before I start my busy day.  I am so grateful to my mom who modeled this practice for me daily as I grew up.  However, I think some people are confused about what devotions include, so I’d like to share my practice so that it may be helpful.

I have a notebook where I write down the things I glean from my study each day.  Often I begin my quiet time by jotting down the date and the pressing concerns of the day using phrases.  Sometimes this takes the form of a prayer or a letter that begins “Dear Lord,” but sometimes I’m not that lucid and my thoughts are scattered.

I recently purchased the tiny diary One Line a Day. This unique journal only has enough space to jot down a sentence or two about the day’s events.  Below it are spaces for the next four years of the same date, so as time goes on I can see where I’ve been and what I’ve been thinking each year. Lately, I’ve been jotting down the summary of the previous day before I begin my quiet time.

A staple of mine is a book that is literally falling apart. It has no cover and the last pages are falling out. I use them as book marks. It is a much-loved copy of Streams in the Desert that originally belonged to my dad.  I think I inherited it when my parents moved to New York. This devotion always has a verse and some thoughts that give great encouragement. I read this every day. I keep my Bible by my side and often look up verses that are referenced in a selection.

I love books of prayer by Stormie Omartian.  I just read through Lead me, Holy Spirit so I started reading through The Power of a Praying Woman again. I always underline important phrases that speak to the situation I am facing, and I date the book as I read through the prayer. I have even written my own prayers into the blank pages.  I often would close a Bible study class with a copy of these prayers.

Another every day resource is the In Touch magazine produced by Charles Stanley’s ministry.  Each monthly booklet has articles on a specific theme and then daily devotions.  I always read the Bible verses, underline important thoughts in the lesson and try to apply the principles.

I have decided to attend a writer’s conference this summer, so I am reading a few devotionals for writers.  Write His Answer is very helpful as it truly is a devotional directed at writers.  She includes Bible references to study and some questions for deeper thought.  It is a great encouragement. The other book is For the Write Reason by Marybeth Whalen. In this book, various writers associated with Proverbs 31 Ministries share their writing experiences and advice.  Each article is followed by a devotional on the same topic written by Marybeth.

I picked up a free book while visiting my parent’s church on Mother’s Day. It Takes So Little to be Above Average by FLorence Littauer is a real gem.  The book gives little snippets of how to improve oneself in all kinds of areas. I really enjoyed a selection about pruning that I read last week.

The amazing thing is the way the Holy Spirit speaks as I study the word and seek to apply what I learn.  This morning, I was reading through the various books that I have mentioned, in no particular order.  I wrote down “Seek First His Kingdom” as the main idea from a selection.  As I continued to read, the words “Seek first the kingdom of God and all the other needful things shall be added unto thee” were part of a second selection.  I wrote it down again.  In the final selection, “Seek first the kingdom of God” was there again. So, all morning as I prepared for work, then in the car on the way to work I tried to meditate on this and examine myself to see where I need to put Christ first.

I am a little bit stressed right now with a busy work schedule; my husband has applied for a job with better hours, the kids are busy with activities, friends, and plans for the summer. I am trying to cast my cares on the Lord and look to him for direction instead of ordering him around to work things out the way I’d like.

Starting my day with God and His word is the only way I can manage my busy life.  In the evening I read the One-year Bible right before I go to bed.

I highly recommend all these resources, and I hope that this gives you an idea of how anyone can begin to spend time with God.

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Sowing and Reaping

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“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:5-6

Recently I have been thinking about this idea of sowing and reaping. One of my children was very discouraged after not seeing progress in an area that is a great passion for this child. This child is diligent and self-disciplined; This child is a super student and has a heart for spiritual things. I was shocked by my child’s pain and frustration, and what’s worse, I had no words of encouragement, as this child is talented in a sport in which I have no expertise. After  listening to the hurt and being there for the tears, I continued to pray for my child to have success in this area of life that is so dear. I continued to meditate on the reason why my child wasn’t seeing success despite the practice and dedication.

God brought to mind Charles Stanley’s teaching on sowing and reaping.  His devotional in the One-year Bible reminds me that we reap What we sow, Later than we sow, and More than what we sow.

“A man reaps what he sows.” Galatians 6:7 My child is seeking to perfect a sports skill. That is going to pay off. When I read my Bible and pray, when I fellowship with unbelievers, when I cultivate my relationship with God, that is sowing to the spirit, and God’s Word promises that when we “Draw near to God, he will draw near to you.” (James 5:8)  When we persevere and discipline ourselves in any area of our lives, we know that we will reap positive benefits from that discipline.

We have to remember that success doesn’t come instantly. God makes all things beautiful in his time, in light of his eternal plan. God promised Abraham a son, but in his impatience, Abraham took matters into his own hands and created a lot of problems for his family.  Despite his sin, God was faithful to give him the gift of a son. Right now I am seeking God for his will regarding my time this summer. I hope to finish my Master’s Degree and write a book proposal. My son needs to get his license and a job; my daughter plans to attend a residential summer program for six weeks. My husband still seeks better pay and work hours as he works nights and weekends, causing our family time to suffer. As I pray about these plans, I want God to answer right now, but he keeps telling me, “Be still before the Lord and waiting patiently for Him.” Psalm 46:10.

Finally, God is so faithful that he promises we will reap even more than what we sow. The key is perseverance. If you are discouraged, do not give up. God is faithful! “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Gal. 6:9

Ask, Seek, Knock

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This year I have meditated on Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” In January, a friend had told me about Debbie Macomber’s book One Perfect Word. It was a great inspiration to me, so I decided to select a word or phrase.  My REACH philosophy is still a guide, but I feel I’m at a turning point in my life. I’m wondering what is next. I feel like something new is ahead. As I look to the future, particularly this summer as I have a few months off from teaching, I am diligently asking, seeking and knocking about various opportunities. My daughter is attending an educational program for six weeks, and it is a valuable, enriching experience in which I participated at her age, but it is a considerable expense. I need to take two more courses to complete my master’s degree which will get me a substantial raise in the fall. I am really interested in a writer’s conference, but that again is an expense.  My son needs to get a job and get his license. My husband still works nights and weekends, which is tough on family life. All these situations are  items that I am bringing to the Lord, awaiting his response, and actively exploring some options and opportunities.  I can’t wait to see how it all turns out!

DULOPA trip

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I returned on Sunday from a 10-day, 4-country trip to Europe. I visited Dublin, Wales, London, and Paris. I was able to attend the trip as a chaperone for the high school English department. We had 28 students and 5 chaperones from our school. We were joined by two other small groups as we toured each city. While I was gone, the bombing of the Boston Marathon occurred as well as the explosion in Texas.  I was in London on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral shortly after the funeral for Margaret Thatcher.  Wherever I am, it is a comfort to know that the Lord is with me wherever I go, and he’s got the whole world in his hands! I am so grateful to friends and family that helped out while I was away and my husband was home holding down the fort. I loved the trip! Here are some pictures of some the highlights:

castle in walescastle in walesAnne Hathaway's CottageDULOPA 465the LouvreEiffel TowerNotre Dame Cathedral

Walking by Faith, Not by Sight

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February was a very challenging month. On Friday, February 1, my son had an away basketball game.   During the first quarter, my son got poked in the eye.  He went to the bench, and the medic  was very attentive. After repeatedly checking my son’s eye with a flashlight, the medic told us that he recommended that we go to the emergency room because he thought Jeremy’s pupil was bleeding. We are grateful that he took the injury seriously and gave us good medical advice. We went to Boston to a specialist. He was  put on bed rest for two weeks. We had to go to an eye specialist regularly to check the pressure and bleeding in his eye. We are so grateful for the great treatment we got from all of the doctors! Our friends  and family were very gracious to bring us meals. The following week,  a blizzard hit our area, and we lost power for about 12 hours.  We said a family prayer the next morning as our house was so cold, and immediately the power was restored! However, we soon learned the reason that God restored our power was so that we could host my sister and her family as they also lost power for several days and needed a warm place to sleep. During the same blizzard, a friend from church had a fire in her home, and she is still displaced.  Then, we heard my grandma fell and got hip replacement surgery. She lives in Arkansas, and we miss her and wish we could be closer to visit and give her encouragement. This month has certainly been an adventure, and we are so grateful for God’s provision of healing and safety during this difficult time.

Report card from Jesus

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It is the stressful season of ending a semester and beginning a new one at the school where I work.  I know most people think that teachers sit around with red pens, drinking coffee, cackling with delight as they write large “F’s” on report cards.  However, that is not the case; it is so heartbreaking when my students fail.  Since I have always loved school, I am tempted to use this time to reflect on my own life and my  many resolutions and issue myself a report card.

The old me would have rushed to analyze yet another busy day of jugglemama, rushing from one activity to the next, striving for perfection that is unattainable. I already get a red slash for my eating habits today. I made Toaster Strudel for myself and the kids for breakfast; then when I dropped off my son I realized he never ate! I thought I had forgotten the pastries at home, but when I got to work I discovered I had put them in my lunch bag. So, I ate BOTH of them.  Then, during lunch, I ate a brownie that someone had brought in. However, I did got to the gym today, so does that even things out with a “C” ?

I blew my budget as well; I knew I was cutting things close,but  over the weekend I bought my daughter some earrings WITH A COUPON to thank her for helping me scrub the kitchen floor. I bought my son a $10 CD to even things out. However, I forgot that the health club payment hits at the end of the month, so I have a $2 overdraft. Another failure. I try to compensate for that by something else, like vacuuming the living room. I constantly check off items on my to-do list; keeping myself on such a tight leash!

But I am learning to walk in grace. I have been listening to Chuck Swindoll on my way to work in the morning. He is preaching his “Grace Awakening” series. He shared a very encouraging story.  When he was in seminary, he and his fellow students would rush to check their grades on their blue book exams at the end of the term. One student in particular struggled academically, so before he opened his book, he wrote “GRACE” across the cover.

So, today, I’m going to let Jesus grade my busy day of juggling my health, my budget, my work responsibilities, my parenting, my marriage, my heart. And I’m so grateful that the letters I find are G. R. A. C. E.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” Romans 8:1

 

On My Bookshelf

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I have been reading some very good books lately!

  • Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks–This is a fascinating story about a Puritan settlement in Martha’s VIneyard in the 1660’s. The heroine is a pastor’s daughter who has secretly befriended a Wampanoag boy. The novel is based on a true story of the first native American to graduate from Harvard College. Go out and get this book!
  • Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman–This is a  book that I have returned to several times to soak in each chapter. It really fits the season of my life as I am trying to see what living in Grace looks like for me. I can identify with many of the “masks” that “good girls” wear. I even wrote the author to continue the discussion. I am wondering what role the church has played in this, and then I am curious to see what living out this grace looks like. This would be a great book for a women’s group to study and discuss.
  • The Charles Stanley Life Principles Daily Bible–This year I read my daily Bible in bed before sleep.  It has been a great blessing to end my day with God. I think I even sleep better! I am enjoying the familiar Genesis stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. If you haven’t tried reading through the Bible, it is a great resolution for 2013.
  • The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley is on deck as recommended to me by my colleague and fellow bibliophile Becky.