Picture of moon and clouds

As I stepped into the cool night air, I was thankful to be living where I could walk alone in the evening with no need to fear.

I strolled a path well memorized.

Yellow lights from the windows reminded me that friends were not far. Yet I was alone enough to pray aloud.Moon and stars at night

I paused on the path and looked up. Glittering stars twinkled down at me, and the moon beamed so brilliantly that the night was not dark.

I smiled at the night sky and thanked God for its beauty. I sang a song of praise.

Then I looked up again. I noticed this time a blank spot. One section of the sky had no stars.

As I watched, the blank spot travelled across the sky. It was a cloud. I spotted several other clouds as well.

How mysterious that the stars can seem to vanish, though indeed they do not leave at all.

Then, as I watched, the moon began to fade. I saw a thick cloud slowly overwhelm its brilliance.

Something within me tightened. I didn’t want the moon to leave! Yet it did leave.

The cloud entirely blotted out the moon. The night was thrown into deep darkness.

Suddenly, I felt very alone. No longer could I see the dim outline of the path I’d been strolling. No longer could I see my own hands in the moonlight.

It seemed the moon had vanished – disappeared. At that moment, it seemed impossible to believe that the moon was there at all!

Thankfully, the cloud passed on, but a thought hung in my heart.

Sometimes in life, God seems to have vanished. Would I trust Him even when I can’t see Him?

When God’s presence is clearly seen and felt, trusting and rejoicing in Him seems nearly natural. Yet, when the clouds blot out His face, will I still trust that He’s there? Will I still rejoice in Him?

Jesus warned me that “in this world you will have trouble.” John 16:33b NIV

I don’t know what seasons of dark clouds this life will hold. I don’t know when they’ll come, but one thing I can be sure of is that:

“He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you or abandon you.'” Heb. 13:5 CSB

I also know the end of John 16:33 in which Jesus tells me: “Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:33c CSB

Will I trust Him? Will I believe that His promises are true, even when I cannot see or feel Him?

Father, help me to trust You even in the seasons of dark clouds!

Paint covered hands and the words: My Hands Have Too Much Paint

I need to wash my hands first

“Are you finished?” I ask a preschooler as I point to the bright picture in front of him.

His hand pauses mid-air, still holding his sponge.

“Um… Yes.” He puts the sponge back in the paint tray and smiles up at me.

“You did a good job on your painting.” I remark. “I like how hard you worked on it.”

His smile brightens as I lift the wet painting and move it to the drying rack.

I glance at his hands. “Looks like you need to wash your hands.”

He looks at his red and green fingertips. “Yeah.”

“Come on over,” I invite, “I’ll help you wash.”

As he moves toward the sink, I glance at the other preschoolers to ensure they are still fully engaged in painting.

Satisfied, I hold his hands to help him climb onto the stool without touching the walls.

I turn on the water and encourage him to wash his hands.

He lets the water run over his hands. The paint is still there.

He looks at me. “It’s not working.”

“Here, I can help you.” I take his hands in mine and start rubbing.

Immediately, his hands look more coloured. Rather than just red and green, his hands now have black and blue as well.

I frown, then look at my own hands.

Sure enough, I’d forgotten that I had accumulated a thick layer of paint on my own hands.

“Uh oh,” I say, “I forgot to wash my hands first. You rub your hands.”

Releasing his hands and moving my own hands underneath, I quickly rub the paint off them.

A glance at my hands tells me they’re paint-free now.

I take his hands once more. “Let’s try again.”

This time, as I rub his hands, the paint easily comes off. It takes a little longer because of the black and blue paint I’d inadvertently added, but soon his hands are paint-free too.

I hand him a paper towel and help him climb down.

“You go play,” I say.

“Ok,” he calls as he hurries off.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done that. So often, when helping my preschoolers paint, I get paint on my own hands. Rather than wash my hands every few seconds, I simply rub the paint until it’s dry so I can continue helping other children.

This wouldn’t be a problem, until I try to help them wash their hands. The water restores the paint on my hands and, suddenly, I’m making their hands worse rather than better.

This reminds me of something Jesus said.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5 NIV

I needed to wash my hands before I could be of any use in helping the child wash his hands.

The same is true when we’re trying to help someone. My heart has to be right with God before I can effectively help anyone else get their heart right with God.

Does God use imperfect people? Absolutely! I’m one of them.

It is not that we must be perfect and have everything figured out. No, but we must have our hearts right with God.Hands with paint on them

As David said, after he’d sinned,

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me… Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will return to You.”   Psalm 51:10,13 ESV

Paul, too, talked about something similar when he said:

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”  Galatians 1:6 NIV

With these verses in mind, I must be intentional to seek God first. My relationship with Him must be right in order for me to be effectively able to help those around me.

Oh, that I would keep my hands continually washed clean so that I can be useful for helping others.

Bible and mug by lake

Am I filling myself with the things of God or is something else taking that space?

I am a preschool teacher. As a preschool teacher, there are many tricks of the trade which help my day go smoother with happier, healthier children. 

Many of those tricks involve snack time. Using a straw for yogurt drinks cuts down on the number of catastrophic spills. Cutting grapes eliminates a choking hazard. Sending only healthy snack options results in the child choosing to eat a healthy snack rather than choosing a sugary, unhealthy option.A juice box

One classic snack item, which has its own host of tricks, is the juice box. Many of those tricks involve how to open or hold it without spilling. Not spilling a juice box is indeed a skill for preschoolers to learn!

Beyond that, a useful trick for getting some preschoolers to eat more of their snack is to not give them a juice box at all. Let me explain.

Over my years of teaching preschool, I have seen three significantly different patterns of behaviour in children who have juice boxes with their snack. 

First, many children will only drink one or two sips from the juice box before setting it aside. This leaves the vast majority of the juice wasted.

Second, some children are able to coordinate drinking their juice with eating their snack. They will drink most of the juice and eat a good portion of their snack before snack time is over.

Finally, I’ve seen a number of children who, upon seeing the juice box in their snack, get excited. They drink and drink and drink until every last drop of the juice is gone. Then, having drunk the whole juice box, they look at the rest of their snack, perhaps apple slices or bread and cheese, but aren’t the least bit interested because they already feel full.

These children drink so much juice, often artificially flavoured with added sugar and colour, that they are not eating the sturdy healthy food they need to grow strong. From these children, we can learn a lesson.

The other day, I was reading in Isaiah 2 the explanation of why God rejected His people at that time:

    “They are full of things from the east and of fortune-tellers …

    Their land is filled with silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures;

    their land is filled with horses, and there is no end to their chariots.

    Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands,

    to what their own fingers have made.” Isaiah 2:6b-8 ESV

After reading these verses, I paused. I asked, “What am I full of?”

Am I filled with the things of God, or something else?

This question brought to mind another verse:

    “[God is] always on their lips but far from their hearts.” Jeremiah 12:2b NIV

Instead of “heart,” some other translations say “mind” or “conscience.”

Regardless of how much I talk about Jesus and know all the right answers, what is taking up the space inside me? Is Jesus in my thoughts? When my mind wanders, does it wander to the things of God?

Far more often than I’d like, my thoughts wander some other direction.

Is it bad to think about other things? Certainly not! There are many good things in life that require much thought. The problem comes when those other things are filling me, leaving no room for thoughts of Jesus, just like my preschoolers who drink so much juice that they aren’t the least bit interested in solid healthy food.Two babies drinking milk from bottles

In 1 Peter 2:2(NIV), Peter urges:

    “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation…”

Other translations say “desire the pure milk of the Word.”

Am I desiring the things of God? Am I seeking to be filled with Him?

While there aren’t any shortcuts to being filled with the things of God, spending time in the Bible, in prayer, with other Christians, and in worship are critical.

So for today, I’ll make it my goal to drink just a little less juice and a little more of that pure spiritual milk.

Packages sitting on doorstep

What a comfort that God never makes a mistake.

It’s that wonderful time of year again! Christmas day is coming.

The day we set aside to remember and celebrate the greatest gift in history: that God sent His Son for us.

For many of us, our Christmas traditions include the exchange of gifts. This is true for me.

This year, I completed a large portion of my Christmas shopping online.

I have had primarily good experiences with online shopping, so, while I know it comes with risks, I didn’t hesitate to use that method this time around.

I hunted online for the item I was seeking, and took my time studying various versions of it.

When I settled on the specific item I wanted, I put in my information and completed the purchase. It was a company I’d used before with good results, so I wasn’t worried.

I received a tracking number and the receipt. Then it was time to wait.

The evening before it was expected to arrive at my house, I decided to pull up the tracking number to see where the item was.

To my surprise and delight, the website informed me that my package had been delivered. I hurried to the door, looked outside, and sure enough, there was a package.

I opened the door, then hesitated. I had expected a smaller box.

I stooped, picking it up, but frowned. Shouldn’t the item I ordered be heavier?

As I carried the package into our family room, I read the name and address on it. It wasn’t my name, and it certainly was nothing like my address.

Still, the package had been delivered to my door, and my tracking number told me my package had been delivered that day.Person delivering package to someone

Perhaps the contents of the package were correct and they’d simply put the wrong label on it?

I decided to open the package. I slit the tape and carefully lifted the flaps… an air purifier? That was nothing whatsoever similar to the … Wait! I can’t tell you what I ordered since I’m posting this before Christmas day.

Right away I searched the company’s website for a phone number. I called to explain the mix-up. Thankfully the wait time wasn’t overly long.

The first lady I called couldn’t find my tracking number or even my order number anywhere in the system! My alarm was growing! It wasn’t a cheap item.

It took us a while to realize I’d called the American branch of the company rather than the Canadian one. They forwarded me to the Canadian branch where another lady took my call. When I explained the situation, she told me to wait a couple of days to see if my package showed up. If not, I was to try calling the delivery company. If they couldn’t find my package, then the company I ordered from would send the item again.

So I waited, with that air purifier sitting in its box waiting to see what its future would hold.

On the appointed day, I called the delivery company. I explained the situation.

The lady checked their system and found that my item said it’d been delivered. They even had a picture of my house to show exactly where the box had been left on my front step. Yet somehow they’d given me the wrong box. On top of that, their system said the air purifier I received was still in process of being shipped.

She promised to look into it more closely. If I didn’t hear back from her by the following day, I was to call the company I ordered from so that they could try sending the item to me again.

When I had not heard back from her the following day, I called the company I’d ordered from. They looked into the situation and willingly sent me the item again.

This time the package arrived on the appointed day. It was a smaller, but heavier box. The label had my name and my address on it.

I eagerly opened the box. It was the item I ordered, neatly cushioned with bubble wrap. Relief.

As I reflected on this experience, and tried to guess how the mistake occurred, I realized there is a lesson about God’s character to be reminded of here.

We, humans, make mistakes. God never makes a mistake.

The company delivered the wrong package to me. It didn’t fit my needs. It didn’t have my name on it. It wasn’t intended for me.

God never does that.

In the Bible, we read: “As for God, His way is perfect…” (2 Samuel 22:31a NKJV)

God never makes a mistake, or as I heard a speaker say, quoting a child, “God never says oops.”

I say oops far more often than I care to admit. What a tremendous comfort can be found in knowing that God never says oops!

I like how the verse ends: “The word of the Lord is proven;

He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” (2 Sam. 22:31b NKJV)

As I unwrap my gifts this Christmas, I want to remember that God never makes a mistake in what He gives me. He knows what He is doing. He is trustworthy.

May this truth warm your heart this Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

     Doors with Christmas wreaths

Disgruntled boy - Not wanting to trust the Lord - S. J. Little

 

Have you ever seen a child having a temper tantrum? As a preschool teacher, I’ve seen countless. Thankfully, the children in my class typically learn quickly that a tantrum won’t get them what they want. Have I learned that having a tantrum against God doesn’t help?

Child crying. Tantrum or meltdown

Did you know? While they may look the same, there’s a difference between tantrums and meltdowns? A meltdown is when a child is overwhelmed or over-exhausted to the point of breaking down in tears and frustration. A tantrum, on the other hand, is a controllable action. It is a decision (though potentially subconscious) to behave a certain way in hopes of getting something. 

Not too long ago, little Tommy, a 2 year old, had a tantrum. 

He had just arrived in class, and wanted something he wasn’t allowed to have. Upon being informed that he couldn’t have it, he started crying and declared even louder that he wanted it. Pretty soon he was lying on the floor screaming.

I tried to talk him out of it (without giving him the forbidden object), but he wouldn’t quiet. I tried distracting him with exciting toys, but he cried harder.

Therefore, I moved to another part of the room, though still watching him out of the corner of my eye. I gave him space to scream it out while I went about my morning with the other children.

Finally, after a considerable length of his crying on the floor, I noticed his tantrum beginning to lessen. As his crying decreased, I came alongside him. I gave him a toy and reminded him that we’d soon be cleaning up for our next activity.

It took him a few more minutes with a teacher by his side, but soon he got to his feet and joined the other children with the toys.

He yawned a few times and, indeed, appeared rather sleepy. That tantrum had taken a lot of energy. He was mellow, though happy now and engaged with the activities.

His tantrum left him tired and didn’t get him the thing he wanted.

Not long after that day, I happened to be reading Proverbs chapter three in my morning devotional time.

Prov. 3:5-6 is a beautiful passage that I’ve been encouraged and challenged by many times in the past. In fact, in my post “My Cat is Bad at Following” I use these verses. In case you need a refresher, Prov. 3:5-6 NKJV says:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

I continued reading. At verse 8, the image of Tommy on the floor crying, then being so tired after, came to mind.

Prov. 3:8 NIV says:

“This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”

Because of a health issue I deal with, anything saying it will give health catches my attention. I want to know more.

What is the “this” that will increase my health? I had to look back to find it.

At verse five, which I quoted above, a new paragraph starts. Verses five and six talk about trusting God rather than my own understanding. Verse seven is straightforward. It says, “Don’t be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”

Trusting the Lord and not being wise in my own eyes sounds like the opposite of a tantrum. Tommy wasn’t trusting that I knew best. He wanted what he thought was best and wouldn’t listen to my reasoning.Girl feeling unhappy - Not wanting to trust the Lord - S. J. Little

Sometimes I’m like Tommy.

Sometimes God says no, but I still want that thing. Sometimes God says move, but I want to stay. Sometimes God says wait, but I want it now.

In the past few years, I’ve gone through seasons of having a form of tantrum against God. Times when I am frustrated because He hasn’t taken away my health issues. Times when I remind God of all the serving opportunities I’d be thrilled to be involved in, but have had to turn down because my health isn’t good enough. Wouldn’t it be better if God took away my health issues so I could serve more?

Yet whenever I get into that mindset, I am not trusting God. It steals my contentment. I find myself frustrated and joy-less.

After seeing how clearly Tommy was exhausted after his tantrum, and after reading Prov. 3:8, I realize that these seasons of tantrum in my life only burn me out, rather than convincing God to change His mind.

While it doesn’t take away my health issues, being content to trust the Lord’s understanding rather than my own does make a noticeable improvement for my physical health, and even more so for the health of my soul.

Oh, that I would learn to always trust the Lord rather than tantrum against Him.

*Note: details of this allegory have been altered to preserve confidentiality