Just as i am….

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Enough already!

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Window to the Soul

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20/20 is Perfect Vision

Class of 2020
May 2013

Seven years ago was by far, one of the most difficult ones in my classroom teaching career. It just was. No particular reason, just a combination of many things that made it more difficult than some years.

Beginning the year with the annual fall field trip to the Birmingham Museum of Art for the Pre-Columbian Exhibit, I distinctly remember having a difficult time getting the attention of the parents and the students for the “We are about to leave- behave on the trip pep talk.” I called them out, adults and all. It turned into a mini sermon speech.

I. Will. Never. Forget. It.

I remember thinking, “It is far too early in the year to upset parents, Mrs. M. Choose your words wisely.”

I’m pretty sure I quoted our local youth pastor by saying, “I’ll wait until you finish talking because I don’t want to be rude.” Risky approach on a September field trip with many parents who didn’t know me well.

And that’s just what it was for me. A lasting impression that I’ve enjoyed watching the past seven years. The class of 2020 was a group of bold, vivacious, independent fifth graders. They had a tenacity at age ten.

First impressions are lasting impressions.

Class of 2020
Fall 2012

Those first impressions have lasted. I’ve enjoyed watching these students grow up. Several of them have kept in touch over the years. It is exciting to know that they will be registering to vote and graduating from high school in the next few months. They are the class of 2020.

As we have learned what social distancing is, the class of 2020 has been asked to stay home, finish classes online and they are now facing unprecedented times for the spring of their senior year.

This is nothing new for the class of 2020.

May 2013
911 Pentagon Memorial

Most of these students were in utero on September 11, 2001. They were born during unprecedented times. They have always been ready for new challenges that have come their way. This week I contacted some of the seniors and asked, “What do you think of the current events right now, spiritually and/or politically?”

Kate said, “It’s crazy and sad and completely out of our hands, but praise the LORD that it’s in His hands instead! I’m sad that we’re missing the end of our senior year, but it’s all part of God’s plan! It’s okay to trust an uncertain future in the hands of an all knowing God!”

Emma hasn’t let this get her down. She is a leader on her soccer team, and is preparing to go to nursing school. I’ve enjoyed watching Emma and Anne Madison continue their friendship even though Anne Madison moved away when they were in sixth grade.

Anne Madison is a leader in her public high school in north Alabama. She was also crowned as homecoming queen this fall. Anne Madison has faced another unprecedented challenge this past 12-18 months as she’s fought for her health. I asked Anne Madison for her thoughts about this March madness. She replied, “Adults always come up to me and tell me that our grade, the class of 2020, is a really special class. I have heard that so many times growing up, but I believe God has given our class unique opportunities to share the gospel and point others to Him, and this is just another one of them!” She spoke of revival and her hopes for the future.

Watch Anne Madison’s video on my Facebook page.

20/20 is perfect vision.

While the class of 2020 isn’t perfect, I do think they have unique insight and vision to forge ahead no matter what is set before them. It has been inspiring to me to watch how they are handling these unprecedented times with a fresh vision that still leaves lasting impressions.

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Marching Orders

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At the Foot of the Tree

by Sarah Kathryn Murdaugh

(my daughter)

Today, I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw a picture of a friend’s Christmas tree. The tree was adorned with beautiful lights and sentimental ornaments. At the foot of the tree were some presents. Then it hit me. I don’t know why in the world we have the tradition of putting presents under a tree at Christmas time. We don’t do the same for birthdays or Easter or Valentine’s Day… why Christmas?

The gifts are found at the foot of the tree…. the gifts…. are found….. at the foot of the tree….

In the season of Advent, we await the coming of the Christ child, the child who was prophesied to save the world, redeem the lost, bring those who had abandoned truth back close to the Father’s heart. We give gifts to one another to commemorate The Gift the Savior brought to us.

There are Christmas trees, and there are several reasons why we have Christmas trees, but when I look at the Christmas tree, I remember Calvary and its tree. You see, the tree that was hoisted up on Calvary over 2000 years ago held upon it the man that saved my life. Jesus Christ, that baby that was born to a humble servant of the Lord, wrapped in clothes meant for a burial, laid in the lowliest of cribs, and hailed by many as King of Kings, He endured the harshest of punishments: the punishment of death for sin — the ultimate sacrifice.

When I kneel at the foot of Calvary’s tree, I find Salvation. I find Peace. I find a relationship with the Creator. I find pure Joy, not circumstantial happiness. I find Adoration to the One who gave His life. I find Jesus, the greatest gift of all.

So, over the next few hours, as I kneel at the foot of a different tree to shift earthly presents around, I pray that I remember the beauty of the greatest gift that could ever be found at the foot of a tree.

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Precious Things

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Teaching internationally online has been a wonderful experience for me. I’ve learned so much about different cultures, and met some amazing students as well as a few of their families.

 

Alan is by far one of my favorite students! He is wise beyond his years.

Alan finished this morning’s lesson as a Level 7 student, but was only at Level 3 when we began having classes together two years ago.

I have many memories from teaching Alan. He is polite, respectful, inquisitive, studious and has an amazing sense of humor. His profound comments stick with me. One day when discussing grow/grows, we looked at pictures of how a baby grows into an elderly person. I said, “See Alan, I’m old. I have gray hair like this picture.”  To which Alan quickly responded, “Teacher Audrey, you are not old. You are young at heart.”

Another time we were learning about animals that live in the wild and Alan began to sing, “In the jungle the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight.” He proceeded to tell me that this was his favorite movie and song. As our next 65-70 classes began, I always played 20-40 seconds of that song. Alan would sing along and dance. What a fun young man to teach!

When we were discussing semi-aquatic animals, I asked Alan, “Which one of these animals would you like to be? Why?” He thought for a minute and said, “I would like to be a turtle because he knows how to take time in life to enjoy it as he goes. It is such a busy world, we need to slow down and enjoy the quality of life around us.”

Today, when I turned on the camera and danced to “My little darling, don’t fear my darling, …” Ignonyama

of course I saw Alan dancing and smiling. As the music faded I greeted, “Hello Alan! It’s great to see you.”  To which he replied, “Hello Teacher Audrey!”  As I always do, I asked Alan, “How are you today?”  He replied, “I am sad.” I then asked Alan why he was sad. He told me, “As you know, I am now in Junior school (7th-9th grade). My mom and I have talked about it, and today is my last class. I will no longer be taking VIPKid Classes. We both talked about the importance of his junior education. Alan then said,

“We lose many precious things in our lives.”

Having grieved the loss of several loved ones this past year, I found that statement to be quite true. How incredibly wise of young Alan to realize the profound truth of this reality. I found his statement to be encouraging, not disheartening. Once again, the words of a student, bring pensive moments with great wonder. https://www.facebook.com/1394925621/posts/10220734402735333?sfns=mo

I will always be thankful for the lessons I had the honor of teaching Alan. I am also quite thankful that his family and I are friends on WeChat so we can keep in touch.  Alan told me, “You are my favorite teacher. We have had almost 70 classes together, since Level classes count as two.”

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There are so many precious things in life that we eventually lose. However, if we are young at heart, and move slowly like the turtle in a busy world, we might just find the wisdom of always finding the silver lining.

“How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold. She is more precious than jewels; And nothing you desire compares with her.”                                                                                                                  ~Proverbs 3:13-15   

 

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Worry Wart

I was stressing because my child was struggling in school. No matter how hard we tried, we just could not solve for x!

In my frustration, I decided to clean. At least that has immediate results and burns calories.

I pulled the couch out to clean. I was annoyed because I had to bend over to pick things up before I could sweep. My mind swirling with “Who ate in the living room? What’s with all the cords? I don’t have time for this!”

As I stooped over to pick up the “trash” I read…

…she might not have been able to solve for x, but she sure could draw and do modern calligraphy art! The message…sigh! What incredible truth was lying there in the dust under my couch.

DO NOT FILL YOUR MIND WITH WORRIES!

How many times does God use our children to teach us something? A few weeks later, bored in the car, my daughter asked, “May I draw in your prayer journal? I didn’t bring any paper.” I willingly obliged, no one wants boredom to set in with teens in the car! I didn’t give it a second thought.

The following Sunday I’d had an upsetting event occur just before the worship service at church. It had proven to be difficult as I was faced with my own character flaws that needed to be fixed, not to mention the humility that comes after pride has set in.

Holding back the tears, I began turning to the next blank page in my prayer journal. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I just wanted to deal with this emotion and be ready to take notes when the sermon began.

Just before the next blank page in my journal, was this beautiful reminder of TRUTH once again straight from my daughter’s talent to my very soul at the exact second I needed it. No doubt it was perfect timing.

God has given us each unique and distinct gifts to use for his glory, sometimes it involves letters, just not variables in equations.

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Stopped to Smell the Roses

Can’t wait to share with you about my walk through this local garden yesterday! Open Garden Day

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GO!



      Inside these stained glassed buildings are people. Normal, real people. Listening to women discuss church I have heard some mind-boggling statements. Recently, I posted a question on social media, “When you first enter a church, what do you think/feel?” I was looking for honest feedback, especially from those who are regular churchgoers. 

      WHAT I GOT WAS ASTOUNDING!

      “Often I walk in one of these buildings insecurely glancing around wondering if I belong.”

      “Will anyone talk to me today?”

      “Does my hair look okay?”

      “Look at that perfect little family and their matching kids’ outfits. Well, my kids do have on clean clothes…”

      If I’m honest, I wrestle with insecure feelings  on Sunday mornings too. Many times I find myself blinking forcefully and shaking my head before I enter the church building , reminding myself why I drove and parked there in the first place. Snapping out of it, I remember I came because I need to learn, study and worship. I need to laugh, cry and sing. I need to listen, talk and ponder. 

      Teach. Hug. Listen. Pray. Read. Sing. Hear. Understand. Speak. Thank. Hug. Kneel (or not). Lift hands (or not). Shout (or not). Exit and enter the new week with joy and energy to begin fresh anew. 

      If you live in the south and frequent a church, there are opportunities to go on mission trips year round. Stateside mission trips, overseas mission trips, trips with big groups for short weeks, and trips with small groups for long weeks. Sometimes you be trippin’ over the choices offered. 

      I’ve never gone on a mission trip. Ever. 

      I am a missionary, however. 

      Someone asked me one Saturday last month  while I was passing out popcorn where I felt called to serve. We were taking about the volunteer slots at the church league concessions. “I’m a preacher’s kid. I get it,” she told me. I said, “I’m called to be a missionary inside the baptist church… [pause for pensive, silent stare]. . . You think I’m kidding don’t you? I’m serious as all get out,” I told her. “Look. Stop. I’m for real. Inside these walls is my greatest mission field.”

      She looked in deep thought as she said thank you for her $0.75 popcorn purchase. 

      I’ve been in southern baptist churches since 9 months before I was born. Sometimes I get asked, “Why don’t you come to my church? Why don’t you just watch a service in your pajamas at home and rest? What do you mean you’re a ‘Christ follower’ not a baptist?”



      BECAUSE often times the mission is right in front of my face. If I’m not careful I can MISS the MISSION. If I’m alert, I can “mission” everywhere I go. Dollar General, church league basketball concessions, and especially First Baptist Local Church. There’s a huge need for me to listen, watch, observe and know when to speak and what to say. Often I mess up by talking when I should listen, or offending someone without knowing why. I say aloud, “Be careful! Don’t  MISS THE Mission right in front of you, Audrey.” 


      You never know when just being a cheerleader to one person right where THEY ARE, right in front of your face, might be the mission trip of a lifetime. No fundraising needed. 

      “Go {as you are going} ye therefore….make disciples.”      ~Matthew 28:18-20

      mis·sion (ˈmiSHən)– the vocation or calling of a religious organization, especially a Christian one, to go out into the world and spread its faith.

      synonyms: vocation, calling, goal, aim, quest, purpose, function, life’s work.                         

      her mission in life”


      After choosing the twelve disciples and modeling ministry before them, Jesus sent them out as apostles. He gave them a mission assignment:

      “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”                Matthew‬ ‭10:5-7‬ ‭NASB‬‬

      LOOK AT HIS FIRST INSTRUCTION! “Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 

      This blew me away yesterday when teaching it to my fifth grade Bible classes. He sent them ON MISSION at home…to the house of Israel, the chosen. 

      While it’s important to go on mission trips- short term, long term, and full time. Not everyone is called to go. We are, however instructed to share and go, but not all of us to the same places. 

      I am encouraged that there are mission opportunities all around me. Read a few more responses that were collected to the question, “How do you feel or what do you think as you enter the church building?” 

      “Overwhelming anxiety. The need to be perfect. This is why I don’t go to church.”

      “I have always felt judged.”

      “It depends. At first I feel a bit overwhelmed and maybe a bit alone as soon as I walk in the door. Maybe feel a bit self conscious if I am having a yuck hair day or intimidated by my simple clothes but usually that goes away when I focus on loving others that I see. If it is a church that I am connected to the people I feel “familiarity and connection” overall I usually leave feeling encouraged and grounded especially if there is time to actually have real conversations and if the sermon makes sense to me.”

      “As a college student who still hasn’t found a home church, I honestly dread Sundays in a way. I keep trying to find a church , but often I feel, alone, uncomfortable, anxious, etc. I rarely have somebody come up and introduce themselves because most people only focus on finding their friends and people they know and talking to them. Even if I go up to an usher or greeter and say “hey, I’m new and have never been here before, could you show me to the college ministry? Or ask if they could show me where the sanctuary is, they often just point their finger in the “general direction” tell me where to take rights and lefts and I should be there. I hope I’ll eventually find a church I like but as of right now if it hard to find a church that doesn’t just talk to members and encourage the people they already know. I’m a Christian, but it really, truly bothers me that if non-christians walked in any of these churches, this is how they would be treated. If churches really tried to not be as clicky then I think that we would solve a major problem of people feeling like they are being judged and uncomfortableness in the church.”

      “Disappointment that church culture is not about relationships. It’s more about small talk than it is about cultivating, sustaining, and growing real relationships with other believers. I enter and I leave with a great sense of longing.”

      MAY WE ALL BE OBSERVING AND PRAY FOR GOD TO SHOW US MISSION OPPORTUNITIES RIGHT WHERE WE ARE. 

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