Is God Really Listening?

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Feeling like God is far away at times isn’t unique to young people, and regardless of age it’s a frustrating feeling.

I’m over 40 years old and have been a Jesus follower since the age of 11. I still have times when I wonder if God hears me. Just today I sat on my knees at the edge of my bed praying to him about a situation I’ve needed guidance on for months now. It is only during my most desperate times that I literally hit my knees. Unfortunately, I don’t feel any closer to an answer yet.

Here is what I know to be true, though. As I look back over my life, I see how God has carried me through 100% of the time. I may not have felt close to him in the midst of a crisis, but his faithfulness is evident throughout my life.

Let’s explore some common reasons we may feel like our prayers are bouncing off of the ceiling:

To read the rest, please visit The One Girl Blog, as I have the privilege of sharing on their site today.

No Child Left Behind?

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Will you explore an idea with me for a little while? Basically, I need to think out loud for a bit.

Last week I went to my 4th grader’s school to help serve sundaes. You see, the sundaes were connected to how many of their multiplication facts the students learned. The higher they achieved, the more toppings they got on their sundaes.

I didn’t think much about the idea in the beginning. My son was excited and eager to make it all the way to his 12’s. He gave me weekly reports on his progress. He was extremely motivated. We did flashcards at home and he used an iPad app occasionally. Thankfully, he met his goal. He was able to construct quite the creation when the day came.

When the paper came home to volunteer to serve the sundaes, I signed up. I don’t get many opportunities to help in my boys’ classrooms, so this seemed like a good occasion.

As soon as they started unloading all of the goodies on the tables and gave us directions, I had a sudden change of heart. I was going to have to check kids’ tickets and make sure they were allowed to have my topping. I might have to tell a kid no. My stomach started to churn and I got teary-eyed. My mind immediately thought back to those students I had that no matter how hard they tried, they just couldn’t learn their facts. Then I thought about those kids who didn’t have anyone at home who would quiz them or be sure they practiced.

I watched some of the kids walk away from the line with just a couple of toppings, and I knew some of them had learning issues that likely prevented them from being very successful. It felt so icky.

I am not the parent of a child with special needs, but I think this scenario would be hard for me if I was. I realize that everyone got ice cream, but what about the child with autism who only got syrup…because he has autism.

How do you handle a situation like this? What could be done differently? I’m just asking the questions.

The reality is, there will always be competitions. There will be kids who don’t receive the Presidential Fitness Award in gym class for various reasons. There will be kids who don’t get the perfect attendance award because they get sick a lot. There will be kids who never get a solo or speaking part in a school production. Some children will be the first one out in a spelling bee every time because he/she isn’t a good speller.

Maybe the key is teaching our kids to deal with disappointment. Emphasize with your kids that we all have different gifts, maybe not even academic or physical, but the ability to be a good friend, honest, or an excellent listener. Encourage them in their strengths. Affirm them when they aren’t able to attain as high as they would like for whatever reason. Come up with your own special rewards at home based individually on their abilities when there is something on the horizon that is a big deal that you know they can’t achieve.

So, I just don’t know!! What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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When Life Takes Your Smile

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Have you ever had a time when you physically couldn’t smile?

I came across this old picture of my dad from a celebration dinner we had after a mission trip I went on in college, and it made me miss him and his smile so much.

This week I read a post by Rachel Macy Stafford, otherwise known as Hands Free Mama. In the post she shared how her mother was recently diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy. Rachel writes of her mom,  “Of all the losses she suddenly faced, the loss of her smile was the one that made her cry.”

I have an acquaintance who was involved in a softball accident a few years ago. She had to have her jaw wired shut for an extended period of time. Her sister-in-law shared with me at the time that in the midst of not being able to eat, the pain, and the surgeries, what bothered this sweet lady most was the loss of her smile. Some people are blessed with a particularly fetching smile, and Betsy was one of those people.

I experienced this phenomenon more personally through my dad. Due to his Parkinson’s, he experienced what is known as “facial masking.” His face had a grim, set look. He could no longer convey body language as he once could. People could incorrectly think he was grumpy. It’s a frustrating part of the disease (among many others).

The ironic thing is, my dad wasn’t one to smile much before his diagnosis. He had a serious and reserved personality. Yet, I think his missing smile is one of the things I regretted most about his disease. Even though he was quiet and somewhat reticent, he was a happy and positive person. He wasn’t “ha-ha” funny, but had a dry sense of humor. He told the WORST jokes, and totally cracked himself up when he did. I miss those jokes that I used to roll my eyes over.

This is what I learned, though. Life can steal your smile, but it is your choice if it steals your light. 

Now, there are exceptions. Brain tumors, mental illness, and various diseases can irreparably change your personality and turn you into a version of yourself you have no control over. But with most things, we have a choice to react with joy or sorrow.

In my dad’s last days, we celebrated Thanksgiving. He was on a feeding tube at the time and couldn’t join us for dinner, so we took turns eating upstairs so we wouldn’t eat in front of him and he wouldn’t be alone. One of my boys happened to come downstairs with a cookie. My dad jokingly said, “Can I have a bite?” This simple question was both profoundly sad and uplifting at the same time. Not able to put one solid bite in his mouth, he was still able to make an attempt at levity. Instead of bemoaning his circumstances, he chose to be lighthearted.

Friends, there are many ways life may try to steal your smile, and it might sometimes even succeed. Don’t let it steal your light, though. There are more significant things in the world than a beautiful smile. What matters is what radiates from within your heart.

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