Great Expectations

“In each box, there should be a sentence along with an illustration.” – Ms. Abraham.

Those were my famous last words before I ended up with 10 papers that were done correctly and 9… well, you know. Some had illustrations while others had sentences. Consistency was definitely lacking. And it all boiled down to one common denominator: the famous last words of Ms. Abraham. I had simply explained instructions verbally without providing a visual aid in hopes that my second graders would magically get it. Consequently, the race to erase their mistakes began. I had neglected to state my expectations clearly. I made sure they knew some of them, but I didn’t give them enough to where they had everything they needed to meet the expectations of the assignment.

I think about that and its relationship between human beings. How many times have we not met a certain expectation or been hurt by an unspoken expectation? Chances are, there was a lack of communication about what was expected. Or, the individual simply didn’t meet the expectation. (grace grace grace). Whatever the case may be, I’ve seen myself having conversations with God and others surrounding this idea.

Lately, it seems that the word expectations has been rearing its head and shoving its face in my face. I’ll be honest. It hasn’t been pretty. In fact, it’s been difficult, but it’s been life-giving. At the end of the day, God is using the concept of expectations to refine me. (YAY!)

Over the past few years, I have developed a practice of identifying the root issue of why I’m upset/angry with someone/something. More often than not, it boils down to expectations not being met either from my end or the other party. (I’m such a teacher! ;)) It’s why I make a scene when a child is mean to another student because it clearly says on Rule #1: Be kind! It’s because expectations weren’t met.

Now, if we think about God and His expectations, I believe it’s clearly laid out for us as illustrated in Luke 10:25-27

One day, an expert in religious law, stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” – New Living Translation

Two expectations can be identified. Love the Lord your God with everything and love your neighbor as yourself.  This is what is expected of us. (More on this coming to a post soon!) 

You know that thing we do? The thing when we get upset at someone and it’s really our fault because we haven’t communicated our expectations? That thing. God doesn’t do that. He has declared his expectations clearly.

In the same way, in our relationships, I think it’s extremely critical to express expectations. This extinguishes the possibility of assumptions and a lot of unnecessary pain. Instead, it opens up an avenue for conversations to be held and a common understanding to be achieved. So, what do you say? Let’s set, meet, and exceed expectations. But most importantly, let’s communicate.

What T-TESS Taught Me About Jesus.

This afternoon, our 4th graders did a lap around the school with their own prepared chants and songs since they are taking their STAAR – Writing next week. I will say that my coworker and I definitely hit the dab more times than we can count & yelled at the top of our lungs for those sweet kids. On a side note- the sense of community that burst through was something incredibly memorable. What would it look if we cheered each other on at the top of our lungs?

Evaluation season is upon us. This not only rings true for our babies taking the STAAR test, but it is just as true for the educators in the classroom. This year is the first year of implementing a new teacher evaluation system, also known as T-TESS. For the non-educator readers, T-TESS stands for Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System. As mentioned by the name, this program aims to evaluate while simultaneously providing support for teachers to deepen their skills in order to provide the highest quality education possible. One of the components for this evaluation system includes teachers gathering evidence in order to justify the score that will eventually be given.

As I sat in front of computer this afternoon, I began to reflect on what evidence I could gather in order to “present” myself as worthy enough to receive a score of proficient or higher. And, without a moment’s notice, I began to think about the vast difference between T-TESS and the Gospel.

T-TESS calls the teacher to prove themselves worthy.
The Gospel simply deems us as worthy enough because of God’s love for us.

T-TESS expects the teacher to show evidence for all the works they have done.
The Gospel calls for the recognition of the greatest work of Love that has been done for us.

So, my teacher friends and anyone else in the midst of evaluation season, keep your eyes on Jesus. Yes, we are still required to be the best stewards of where we are currently, but do not get discouraged by current evaluations/upcoming evaluations because God has already evaluated us. He deems us worthy and more than good enough.

Romans 3:24–25  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

With love,
Sharon

PS – Thank you for encouraging me to still write. ❤

So, Sarah laughed.

Laughter is the same across all languages. Some laughs are accompanied by snorts, while some laughter remains silent. You know. Silent laughter. The person is inevitably laughing, but no sound is being emitted. Some laughs are loud. Some laughs prompt others to join along with their laughter. We laugh  until we cry. We laugh in order to break our streams of tears when something has gone wrong. (I feel like I should write a children’s book about laughs.) 😀 Moving on,  as I was reading from Genesis 18, I read the following verse.

Genesis 18:12 – So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

How many of us have laughed whenever we’ve heard God say something about our future? To backtrack a little, it’s important to note that “one of them” had just told Abraham, her husband, that she would have a son within the year. To backtrack even more, Abraham and Sarah were definitely not in their 20’s or 30’s. To the human, it may still seem near to impossible to have a child at their age. But, we can go back and distinctly see that these words were not empty. They were filled with the truth of what was to come.

Without a second thought, Sarah laughed. She laughed to herself and simply said that there isn’t a way for her to have a child because she is “worn out.”

As I read and reread this scripture, I began thinking of how gutsy she was. Someone from the group of three individuals spoke this over her life, and she laughed out loud. Then, I began to think about my own life.

The older I get, the more I am aware of God and His hand in my life through words He’s given to me or words He’s given others to share with me. A few months ago, I heard the word “Nashville.” Since then, I have been more aware of the word, “Nashville” and I’m sure a part has to do with the fact that my senses are bit more heightened. Now, have I laughed? Probably not out loud, but I probably have unconsciously had moments of disbelief because 1) I have no idea what any of it fully means and 2) This is nuts.

But, I will say. God is slowly revealing the meaning of these words and phrases to me. At the end of the year, I will (God-willing) be traveling to Nashville to go to a Women’s Leadership Forum and learn from God’s vessels such as Beth Moore & Lysa TerKeurst. I know! Consequently, I get to wait and pray with great expectation for God’s hand to move in a mighty way.

Going back to the story of Abraham and Sarah and fast-forwarding a little, we see that Sarah does indeed become pregnant and gives birth to their child, Issac. And let’s zoom even faster, many many years later, and Jesus is born. OK. HOLD THE PHONE. Yes and yes. Because of God’s plan in Abraham and Sarah’s life, His plan of redemption was slowly being unveiled. Isn’t that incredible?

We are often like Sarah, laughing at possibilities of God moving. But, He can. He is able.
As we wrap up another week, think about what it might look like in our own lives to not respond with laughter intertwined with disbelief, but instead laughter coupled with joy and belief. Those are the best laughs. The hearty, deep down in your belly, kinda laughs.

Creating a Margin

Over the past few months, I have been studying The Good & Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith with a dear friend. We’ve discussed the various chapters on our view of God and how that aligns or doesn’t align with the truth of who He is. After each chapter, there is a mini chapter on spiritual disciplines and exercises to complete through the week. These exercises are built to deepen our understanding of the Lord.

A few weeks ago, we studied the importance of creating margin in our lives. If you think about a margin, it’s the area of a paper where nothing is written. It’s blank space. Let’s connect that to our own lives. Do we have any blank space? This means whether or not we have any free time to invest into our relationship with the Lord and for serving others.

As I was reading through this discipline, I began to notice the busyness of my schedule and how it would often be filled up with many things to do. However, I began figuring out ways to marginalize. To be completely honest, the power lies in not having to say yes to everything. One discipline I am trying to practice this year includes minimizing the amount of “yes’s” that I allow to come from my mouth.

During this spring break, I’ve noticed that I’ve said no to a few things and it’s been extremely humbling and rewarding because I’ve been able to sit with my mother, sit with my father, and simply be with my whole family. As my mother grieves the death of her youngest brother, I am able to be there and listen. As my father and I discuss the importance of the church’s role in helping its people, I am able to gain wisdom. As I spend time with my whole family, I am able to create new memories in time that I know I’ll never get back. These have all been the consequences for my  It’s been humbling because I’ve noticed for all the “yes’s,” I’ve given in the past without thinking, I’ve probably missed out on some important moments to simply be.

With my personality, always doing is high up on the list, but God has been teaching me to exercise the power of no. As the year goes on, I’m sure there will be more no’s in the future. At the same time, I know those “no’s” will be turned into time spent with the Lord, with my family, and serving others.

If you and I feel as if our time with the Lord is something that is seen as a supplemental piece, I think it’s time we start rethinking our priorities/activities and our use of the word yes. One thing that has helped me has been the use of a question that is presented in the book. The excerpt states, “Say no to what? Anything that is not absolutely necessary to the well-being of your soul or the welfare of others.” If and when we can honestly answer that question against someone asking us to participate in an activity, I believe we will find a bigger margin in our lives. And yes, this definitely applies for the Christian who eagerly provides a yes to each responsibility presented. It’s okay to have margin. In fact, we are able to meet with the Lord in a more intimate manner when we create margin. So what will it be?

With love,
Sharon

Choose to Compliment.

“UGH!” She retorted. Not a second passed before she looked at me and realized the gravity of her one word comment. Another child had won a prize and well, this little one had not. Instead, she got the “teacher look” from me and within a few moments, she was completely aware of the effect her words had on another student. She proceeded to quickly apologize and replace her frustration with a word of encouragement.

Why do we have such a hard time encouraging others when things are going well for them?
If people have done well, there seems to be an underlying movement of individuals who struggle to congratulate someone. Instead, it is met with the criticism, envy, and jealousy. Granted, our real feelings aren’t always verbalized, but we know. You know yourself. I know myself. Yes. We are a broken people.

I’ll confess. I’ve had to check myself about my reactions and responses when I’ve heard of wonderful things happening for people. I’ve had to sit back and ask God to shift my heart’s posture because it was not pretty. Why is that?! Why can’t it be easier to encourage and uplift others? #aworkinprogress

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” – James Keller
-Amen & amen.

For those who do this in a pure and automatic way, kudos to you. (Please teach me). I am learning! For those of us who are learning, it’s always important to check the heart and its intentions. If we recognize there is even the slightest ill-feeling, pray. As simple as it sounds, really ask the Lord to shift the position of your heart and mind. Along with this, be honest with yourself and identify if this is an area of growth for you. (It’s okay if it is). So, the next time you hear of any exciting news that’s happening to someone other than yourself, check your response.

So today, let’s think about how we can compliment instead of criticize. The next time we hear of something great happening for someone, let’s be the first. Let’s be the first to congratulate and celebrate others. Let’s create a culture where we lift others up.

With love,signaturedimage

Gospel + Grace

Today’s inspiration stems from Genesis 3:9. In order to provide a bit of a background, it is critical to understand that this occurs immediately after Adam and Eve had taken of the fruit. As Scripture states, their eyes were “opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they strung fig leaves together around their hips to cover themselves.” (Genesis 3:7)

Isn’t that something?

Following this, they heard the Lord God walking and they went and hid themselves. We can assume that this attempt to hide stemmed from their desire to not face God after they did what the Lord had asked them not to do.

Now, let’s take a break for a second.

I have read this piece of scripture a countless number of times. This time, it captured me. Look at the very act of what’s described in verse 9.

“The Lord God called to Adam, “Where are you?”

Did you catch that? The Lord God came to Adam.
HELLO GOSPEL!

God came to Adam to provide redemption and healing.
In the same way, Christ comes to His people to meet with them.
What a beautiful picture.

Often times, when I am overwhelmed by the ways God is refining me, I remember how He comes to me and He comes for me. In my own sin, I would be a wreck to myself and to those around me. In my own sin, He is coming to redeem and restore. (Of course, the human mindedness in me thinks otherwise, but hey. That’s a post for another time!)

When I sin, I want to hide and run away. But God.

God, in His gentle and just manner, comes to discipline and love me deeply.

Although the story of Adam and Eve is often referred to as the fall, it is also the uprising of the Gospel + Grace. It is the most beautiful story of redemption. God coming and calling for Adam is exactly true of what He has done and continues to do for us, day in and day out.