Light in the Darkness

Our mind has so much power that we often forget. Power over others, but also power over ourselves. Whether positive or negative thoughts, it sets the tone for how we view ourselves and others.

I’ve struggled a lot with this lately. Unfortunately, the negativity reared its ugly head up at me. As a first year teacher trying to plan my wedding I have felt inadequate quite frequently lately. My body has literally taken up the defensive side to get my stress levels to go away. Even a week off for fall break didn’t seem to help much. I often envy how men can categorize their thoughts and only focus on one thing at a time. It will always be a mystery to me how they do…

My mind is 100 miles a minute all day long and sometimes even during my sleep. I have found that when I am staying late at work to prepare for tomorrow, I am not getting things done at home, or for the wedding, or preparing the apartment for after the wedding. Or vice versa. When I leave on time at work I am leaving something undone for tomorrow. Something is always being put on the back burner. Something is always left undone.

So I feel inadequate. 

I should’ve completed my thank you cards.
I should’ve unpacked 2 more boxes.
I should’ve painted the table for the wedding.
I should’ve made copies for my small group.
I should’ve picked up this or done that.

So I turned to Jesus. And you know what he says, “This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7)

Negativity is driving out Jesus. So believe His word. His truth. His love.
Believe it.

Stop believing whatever lie you have convinced yourself is truth.

I thought I was inadequate to teach. How can that be? He has called me to teach, therefore I cannot be inadequate. One of my favorite sayings is:

God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called.

It’s time we start believing God’s truth and not what Satan is trying to tell us through our own thoughts.

You are capable.
You are loved.
You are beautiful.
You are enough.

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the uprooting

faith

I’m a big Elizabeth Elliot fan. At some point in college I read her book “Passion and Purity” and fell in love.  She is one of those people that is so full of the Lord that His wisdom just spews out of her. This particular quote is one of my favorites because it is almost as if I can hear the Lord saying to me, “Daughter, do not dig up in doubt what you wisely planted in faith. Trust me. I will provide.”

Lately I’ve been getting discouraged (SHOCKER!). I’ve been praying for quite awhile now that the Lord would bring me to where I’m supposed to be so that I can teach the students that He has set aside for me.

Fortunately, I had about 5 interviews within 2-3 weeks from each other and my hopes for a teaching position next year sky rocketed. Now here I am a month later with no word back from anyone even after follow-up emails. Doubt is plaguing me. I know that the Lord has a perfect place for me, but my mind just keeps telling me that I should already have this figured out.

I told myself that if I didn’t hear back from any of the elementary schools before our Spring Break next week that I would reach out to middle schools in the county. My heart is with the little ones. I don’t really WANT to teach middle school.

But does He want me to? Lord, is that what you’re asking? I could. If He asks me I would, but I  took this parapro position for a year thinking I’d have my dream job by the end of it. I’m eager to teach. I’m even more passionate now because of having to “sit in” on other teachers classes day in and day out. I’m ready to impact young people.

It’s so frustrating not having anyone believe you’re capable.

Are you feeling down? In a similar situation? I’ve drawn strength from these verses. I pray they will strengthen you as well.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8

Romans 12:2 tells me that God’s plan is good, pleasing, and perfect. To that I will hold on to with steadfast strength knowing that He has me, and you, in His hands.

 

 

Take heart, oh weary wanderer

and god saidI remember being very little and dreaming about what it would be like to be a young adult. I remember wishing my life away and wondering, “Will I ever get there, to where I want to be?” I can remember wishing, oh so many nights, about growing up to be a teacher. I can remember the pride I felt knowing that I would help others in this pursuit of happiness for myself. I believed I would make it. I just didn’t know what I’d have to face to get there.

There is a quote by the first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, that has continued to stick with me throughout my short life. She said this, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

I believe. I still do, but sometimes God entrusts you with a task that you don’t want simply because He knows you’ll grow while you’re there. Sometimes He places you in schools you wouldn’t necessarily have chosen for yourself. Sometimes, God even asks you to put your life on hold. He tells you to wait. He tells you to love. He tells you to take heart.

In my particular case, He told me to be a parapro. He told me to set aside my dream of having a classroom of my own to support someone else’s classroom. He told me I’d meet children. Children who needed to be loved. Children who needed support. So I took the job.

Here is where I should stop myself for a second just to say that I am not perfect. I did not want to take the job. I wanted a classroom. I wanted my dream to become a reality. I did not want to be a Special Ed Para in a Middle School and I didn’t really want to move back in with my parents.

But I took the job.

And today, eight months after accepting the job I didn’t want, I realized why I took the job.

I took the job because I care. I took the job because I am passionate about education whether I am the after school care provider, or the support personnel, or the teacher.

Tonight, as I sat by the fireplace crying and venting to my parents about what else teachers could be doing, I realized that God placed me at this school during this school year in this particular teacher’s classroom because He knew that these kids would need to be loved. He knew I would care for these kids because my heart, like the Grinch, has grown three sizes in one day.

I realized that it doesn’t matter where I teach, or what position I hold. God has called me to love both teaching and the kids I teach. He has called me to support students when they aren’t being supported at home, or at school, or by their peers.

First year teachers, or 3rd year teachers, or tenured teachers – whoever you are – LOVE where you are and what you do, but most importantly, love who you do it for. We are only given these precious children (whether they are age 5 or 18) for a short little while. Teach them all you can and set them up for success while somehow still preparing them for failure. Love on them while you have them. We only have them for a little while.

“Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!” – Psalm 27:14

Showering My Maids

This is a little different than my previous posts. I wanted to share all the nitty gritty details about my bridesmaid gifts because, honestly, I’m obsessed with them. In truth though, I would’ve never been able to do them without my fiancé. He came in clutch.

I got some of my ideas off of Pinterest (obvi). But I knew that I wanted to put my own spin on them. I found these precious boxes at Michael’s with a magnetic clasp:
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Forgive me for not taking a photo of my actual boxes beforehand, but these are similar ones I bought for my flower girls. The only difference being that these are square and that my bridesmaids got circular ones.

I knew I really wanted to stain them a darker color so that if I decided to put their monogram or initial on top it would stand out more. I drug Lance to the nearest Home Depot and he helped me choose a stain and polyurethane protective coat for the shine. After asking him kindly, he graciously spent the next 2 days staining the outside. Then he finished the inside stain after I told him it just didn’t look complete with only the outside done. What would I do without him?!

I googled to find the perfect flower/leaf border I wanted on the lid. I drew it on with pencil before tracing it with a gold sharpie. I drew the initials on after deciding that one letter would probably look better than their whole monogram (especially since some are not married). I thought they turned out gorgeous.
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I knew that I wanted the invitation/request card to be the first thing they saw after opening up their personalized box so it didn’t take me long to come up with what I wanted to say after looking up a couple different wording options on Pinterest. What do you think?
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After looking at a few of my inspiration pieces I knew I wanted the box to include what their hair, dress and bouquets would look like on the day of. Here’s what I ended up going with:

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I ended up going back and adding our wedding hashtag to that first card.

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I added notes on the back of each card to explain it a little farther.
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Once all the details were added, I tied them up with rope that I got from the dollar section at Target.
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And of course, I threw in nail polish for good measure. My MOH got the same color as everyone else, as well as sparkles in the same shade. I added some paper grass confetti to fill in the boxes a bit (extra tidbit of info: stick with Sally Hansen polish to save $$).
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Once it all came together I tied the outside up and added some name tags.
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Pretty cute, if I do say so myself.

Materials List:
-boxes from Michael’s
-craft paper from Michael’s
-stain and polyurethane from Home Depot
-gold sharpie and black Papermate Flair pen
-paper grass and craft tape from Hobby Lobby
-leaf die cut was actually from my basement but you can buy these in several different shapes/sizes from your local craft store
-rope from Target dollar section

Little Miss Busy Body

busy-multitasking

Satan really knows how to get my attention, you know that? He really loves to keep my eyes off Christ and focused on whatever he can throw my way.

This has been a tough school year for me. I accepted a job as a Special Ed Para and had to learn that God wasn’t finished with me, and that no this wasn’t going to be my job forever, but it is my job for now. I had to have faith that even though I wanted to be married to Lance already I had to wait for God to prepare us for that next step. I thought to myself early on, “Wow, it’s going to be a slow year for me so I’ll just add more to my plate.” Boy was I wrong.

I felt like the Lord wanted me to be more involved in a Girl’s Ministry so I started an internship with the High School Minister at FBC Cumming. The County was offering endorsements to certified employees so I signed up to get my gifted endorsement. November rolled around and Lance gets down on one knee and suddenly I’m up to my ears in responsibilities and I can’t hardly breathe.

Satan knew that all of this was coming my way. He knew how to divert my attention towards him. He’s so frustrating. I’ve wanted so many times to stop my Gifted endorsement and finish next year, but who wants to be taking a class during their first year of marriage AND first year of teaching – um, no one. So here I am full-time employee of Forsyth County Schools, part-time employee of FBC HS Ministry, part-time wedding planner and student. That’s a mouthful. The truth is, Satan has taken my eye off the prize. He got my attention. Instead of having all that extra time to spend in my bible and read Christian books about building a stronger faith, now I barely have time to sleep. It’s exhausting.

This week I decided I was not going to get stressed. I am not going to focus on what Satan is throwing in my way. I am going to focus on God. In the midst of my full-time job, part-time internship, wedding planning and student studies I am going to give God the attention He deserves. You know what happened? Joy. Peace. Love.

God reminded me that He has never left my side. Even when I can’t feel Him, He’s there. He’s always there. He brought me joy throughout the day at work. He gave me peace about my crazy busy schedule. He reminded me just how much He loved me.

1 Corinthians 14:33 says, “For God is not the author of chaos and confusion, but of peace..”

He has shown me time and time again just how wonderful of a Creator and King that He is. Remember this simple truth today. God is a God of peace and He loves you immeasurably.

the potter and his humble servant

proposal

On November 18th of 2015 my world stopped spinning for a second.

Yep, you guessed it. My knight in shining armor dropped to one knee and asked to marry me. Only the funny thing is – my knight didn’t have shiny armor. In fact, he isn’t even a knight at all. He’s a shaggy-headed, lanky, incredibly awkward boy-turned-man that is technologically gifted and never-endingly sarcastic. And I love every bit of him.

It’s funny how when you get engaged everyone wants to know how he asked. I’m including myself into this group because I was a proposal junkie until one day I realized I needed to grow up. I can’t give myself too much praise for this, however, because I had only just decided to “grow up” about 95 hours prior to my own little magical moment. I’ll expand on that story a little later.

The truth is, I can’t tell you my proposal story without giving you all the deets on what the Lord had to do in my life to bring me to this moment. Although my fiance, Lance, would say that our story began about 13 years earlier, I’ll spare you all that and just tell you exactly how gracious the Lord was to me in the past 2 years.

Fall 2013 – the fallout

If I were to refer to the Lord working in my life in farming terminology this particular season would be the plowing. I happened to be dating a boy at the time that I thought I could maybe see myself with in the future. We both had some growing up to do, but I loved him. We’d been dating about 2 years at this point. Having moved to a college four hours away so we could be together I was slowing growing quite homesick. I came up with an ingenious plan to bring him back home with me just in time for the Cumming Country Fair & Festival (it’s basically my favorite holiday other than Christmas-and no, it’s sadly not an actual holiday). We’d drive up through the night on Thursday shortly after my Sorority’s Initiation and and go to the Mountains all day Friday, spend the day at the fair Saturday and wrap up our trip after Church on Sunday. Unbeknownst to me that said boyfriend had growing feelings towards someone else and that a bombshell was soon to land in my lap. Thirty minutes into the 4 hour drive back I heard the words, “I don’t think I’ve ever really loved you. You deserve someone wonderful, but it’s just not me. I’m sorry.”

That’ll wake you up from your fairy-tale. If there is one thing I have learned in my short 23 years of life it is that Satan knocks you when you’re down. Oh boy, did he ever. Self-esteem issues? I had them. Self-image issues? I had them. Sick mind games are seriously Satan’s stronghold. I looked for love anywhere I could find it. If it couldn’t be found in a nearly 2-year long relationship maybe I could find it in a bar. Wrong. Maybe I could find it in the library. Nope. What about xyz’s social event of the year?! Definitely not.

You know where I did find it? I found love in friendship. The relationship of close friends reminds me so much of Jesus. Good friends point you to scripture. Good friends encourage. Good friends evoke laughter. Good friends know how to love.

This was the turning point when God stopped plowing and started  the planting process. In past heartbreaks Lance was always the first to reach out. The text messages would always read something along the lines of, “You’re too good for him anyway” or “Good riddance frog”. I may be exaggerating with the frog part, but probably not seeing as how laughter was always his preferred method of encouragement. The fact was, he was always my encourager, my backbone, and my (not-so) secret admirer. There were some tough moments during that breakup of ’13 that were different than the others. I think partly because Lance was dealing with something on his own then too and the late night conversations healed both of our souls.

The truth is I wasn’t looking for love. Lance built my self-esteem back up by helping me to realize just how magnificent the Lord really is and how he has a plan for our lives that is 6097346 times better than our own. It’s kind of funny to look back on now because during that time I even turned down other friends-turned-ex-lovers. Lance understood me more than I even understood myself. While they were pushing me to dive back into the dating scene, Lance supported me to become content with myself. He taught me to love myself again just by being a friend, a friend I desperately needed. He understood all those nights that I poured my heart out to him and become frustrated that others weren’t giving me my space to heal.

Summer 2014 – the light bulb

June 5, 2014 Lance asked me to be his girlfriend. There aren’t too many days when I can remember being that happy. In fact, I would refer to it as a radiating joy because happiness just doesn’t cut it. I never understood the saying, “you just know” until “I just knew”. Romance movies just really don’t do it justice let me tell ya.  There is an inner peace that radiates inside you that almost whispers to your soul saying, “he’s the one”. It truly is magical.

I suppose shortly after that day I became even more obsessed with weddings, romance movies and books. My Pinterest basically blew up with so many pins. I had a problem.

For years I had struggled with putting my boyfriend before my relationship with God, but Lance was so good at keeping it balanced. It’s a shame he didn’t have control over my mind too because that’s where I faltered. The truth was I was obsessed with proposals and weddings and rings and I needed an intervention.

November 14th, 2015 – the holy intervention
I told you it wasn’t long before he popped the question!

I’m an intern for my Youth Minister so I basically get paid to meet and text awesome girls and talk about how God is working in their lives. It’s only part-time, but I absolutely love every bit of it. Anywho, this particular weekend was Disciple Now and I was pretty bummed that I couldn’t be a college leader for a group of girls because I had this teacher certification test the following Monday. Instead, I just hung out with the senior girls and my (then) boyfriend’s sister and her super cool roomie. We stayed up way too late Friday night talking way too much about how I was still pretty salty that Lance hadn’t proposed yet. (I mean seriously, what was he debating?) In his defense, I had way too many demands because, well, Pinterest. I basically just told them I struggled with it. I put that before the Lord all the time. I gratify my sin at night by logging on Pinterest and Instagram and Facebook every night just to see who else had gotten engaged and then proceed to stalk everything about their lives because they were living my dream. I’m telling you… I N T E R V E N T I O N was needed. 

The following day I had to study for my tests all day and was unable to go to any of the small group lessons as I had previously planned. We met back up at the church around 8pm and I walked in expecting a completely normal night of worship. Only thing was, the Lord showed up and showed out. The worship band Lexington Road was singing Bethel Music’s song Jesus We Love You. The chorus goes something like this:

Jesus we love you
Oh how we love you
You are the one our hearts adore
Our hearts adore

And then it just hit me like a ton of bricks like it usually does when the Lord gets a hold of your heart. How could I stand here and sing of my love for Him? How could I sing about how I adore Him? I idolized my obsession with weddings and my future with Lance that I completely threw aside my love for the LORD, the King of KINGS. Y’all. I was weeping. Like a blubbering baby. It was real cute. I sat down on that seat and deleted every single app or un-followed every Instagram user that was going to stand in my way of loving the Lord.

He reminded me that, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:4-8)

I did not love the Lord because I had forgotten what love was.

November 18th, 2015 – the proposal

So, as you can imagine (if you’ve ever been on a Jesus high), I was pretty stoked to have another chance. To have this renewed sense of purpose. God had called me to love. I was so excited to tell the senior girls that night just how much the Lord had done in just a measly 24-hour period. I was still in awe when Wednesday night rolled around. Part of being an intern was singing on Wednesday nights and it was my first night doing so since most of the high school musicians had been busy with football until that week. I was pretty bummed when Lance told me the day before that he had been assigned a 12 page paper and he didn’t think he could come. I hadn’t sang in public in a while and I wanted someone to be there to shoot strait with me afterwards and tell me how terrible I did – so I invited my parents.

I got to the church around 5pm and waited for the guys to get there with their guitars. Meanwhile, Scott came bouncing in with a huge grin on his face going on and on about this new game he was going to do that involved earth warms, mayonnaise, and blind folds. I know what you’re thinking – nasty. I nonchalantly said something like, “hey my parents are coming tonight to be my support system since Lance can’t come”. In true Scott fashion he replies with, “Sweet! I can embarrass you in front of them”.

An hour or so goes by and Scott does the announcements and describes the game called What’s In The Box. A student is picked from the crowd to come up and be blindfolded. They then have 30 seconds to stick their arms in the big cardboard box and guess what object is in there. Some of the objects were: mayonnaise, spaghetti noodles, pine cones, and earth worms. Scott calls me up, blindfolds me and tells me I have 30 seconds to guess what is in the box.  I stick my arms in and at first had no idea. After I picked it up I realized this is a velvet wrapped ring box and I am going to kill Scott. Seriously, I would’ve rather had to guess spaghetti.

Only then Scott takes off my blindfold and I saw Lance standing next to me. About this time I think my brain shut off and whatever my eyes were seeing was not making its way to my brain which wasn’t signally my face to respond. I was just numb. Why is he here? Why does he have a ring box? and then… OH MY GOSH WHAT *commence ugly crying*

My best friend wasn’t there. Neither was my whole family. But you know what? It was absolutely perfect and I wouldn’t change a single thing about it because it’s our story and I love it.

I’m going to be Mrs. Lance Tyler Sudduth!