“God will supply us with the opportunity, but it is up to us to do something with it.”
“Every experience God gives us, every person he puts in our lives in the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.” Corrie Ten Boom
“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
“Be strong and immovable, work enthusiastically, nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” I Corinthians 15:58
Over the last few days I have experienced first hand the people and the opportunities God gives us, His opportunities are there every day, and it is up to us to acknowledge and make the most of the people and the opportunities He places in our lives. I will be the first to tell you that I do not always acknowledge them or use them to the best of my ability, I take them for granted. Yet, over the last few days the people and opportunities He has given me have blown me away and given me chills. They cannot be swept away or ignored, they cannot be taken for granted, I had to acknowledge them and grow from them. Hence this blog!
From an experience in our local grocery store, to an experience in my front yard, to experiences with relatives, and to experiences with memories and artifacts, God has presented me with many opportunities to be grateful for His love and mercy, and to grow from their existence in my life.
The grocery store experience was simple, yet strong enough to remind me of the good in others. The first was a young mother searching for Sage just days before making dressing for Thanksgiving, which was the same thing I was looking for. She was with her son, and we had a conversation about going several different places trying to find it, to no avail. I told her to have a wonderful Thanksgiving and proceeded to the dairy section. After being there several minutes, I heard the sweet voice of her son, “Ma’am, ma’am! We found some and my mother wanted me to find you and bring you some.” In his hands were two bottles, which he tried to give both to me. I told him thank you very much and took one. He smiled and turned and walked away. God’s intervention in both of our lives.
The experience in my front yard was just as simple, yet just as thought provoking! I was in the front yard raking leaves, yet again! After raking for a couple of hours, an elderly man walking down the street, stops and says, “Ma’am, it looks like you are getting your exercise. I know exactly how you feel, because I feel like I have raked every day for the last couple of weeks.” After a couple of minutes of both us lamenting about raking leaves and they keep falling, he looks at me and in all seriousness, says, “Ma’am, if you need help I will walk down to my house, get my rake, and come back and help you.” (This was an elderly gentleman of probably around his late 70s, early 80s, and struggling just to walk himself! Yet, he is putting the needs of others before himself.) My heart just stopped, and I told him thank you but that I was almost finished. He looked at me, smiled again, and said, “Well, honey, if you need help you just let me know. I will help you!” Again, I smiled and told him thank you very much. The rest of the afternoon I worked in our yard with a big smile on my face, and a song in my heart. I thanked God for his thoughtfulness to place this sweet man in my life on that day.
Then come the moments that God placed family in my daily presence to remind me of His faithfulness and plan for my life.
Through this Covid situation, and parents making decisions about their children and school, I have supported our daughter and her decision to keep my grandson at home and do virtual school. Cooper has asthma, and if he were to get Covid, it could cause him many health concerns. So at least once a week, I have him with me and I help him with his virtual school for the day so she can work from home. He is in the 5th grade! If that is not God presenting me with an opportunity, I do not know what it is. My love and passion in my 27 years of teaching was 5th grade. I love the Social Studies, the Science, the ELA, and even the math. The fact that it is my grandson and I get to help him with school is like a dream come true. He works so hard for me, and it makes me so happy to see him work to overcome the issues of virtual school and his learning disabilities. He is one tough kid, smart and kind, he makes me proud. The caveat to working with him, though is the Social Studies. I love history, and any student I have ever taught will tell you how much I love history. Yet, God really brought it home to me over the last couple of weeks when Cooper has been studying Immigration, The Roaring Twenties, The Great Depression, WWI, and now WWII. I have such a passion for how these units are presented so that students understand the impact these events had on the United States then, and still have an impact today. My past students will also tell you how patriotic I am, and as a result I want to instill that same patriotism in my children and grandchildren. My parents and grandparents instilled patriotism in my heart, and I feel it should be there for every American. I want to give my grandchildren experiences that show them what it means to be an American. To share these moments and my knowledge with my grandson is a dream come true. Several years ago, when my husband and I made the decision to renovate his childhood home and move into it, we were both shocked and surprised to find the treasures from the Great Depression and WWII hidden behind the walls of the house. I cannot tell you how many hours I have spent reading letters from his daddy as he served in the Marines during WWII from 1941 to 1946. Oh my, the letters, the photos, and all the other artifacts I have found behind the walls of the home I am blessed to live in now. I did not have the privilege to meet my father-in-law, he died before I met Steve. Oh, but if I had had that opportunity, I would have sat for hours listening to his stories if he had been willing to share. However, all I can do is read the letters, touch the photos, reverently touch his uniform and hats, and cry tears looking at and touching the flags, the helmets, and all the many others treasures he hid behind the walls. I have so many questions for him, and I just want to hug him and thank him for his service. As a young man, about 19 years of age, he joined the Marines. He ended up serving in the Philippines, Hawaii, Nagasaki, and who knows all the other places. I have sat on the floor for hours and cried as I read each letter! I have mentally made a list of all the questions I want to ask when I finally meet him in Heaven and believe me, I am going to ask questions. The thing that really thrills my heart though is that I get to share those artifacts, those letters, those pictures, and so much more with students across Greenville County, but more importantly with my grandchildren, his great-grandchildren. How special, how God given is that opportunity. Cooper is studying WWII right now, and over the last week I have been able to share Mr. Murrell’s things with him, and my heart is full! Today Cooper was completing a project about Pearl Harbor, and I was able to go upstairs and pull-down items Mr. Murrell had from Pearl Harbor, the Japanese, and WWII. If that is not a God given opportunity, I do not know what would be. Even if Cooper does not understand the implications of these things now at the age of 10, one day when he is in his 20s, 30s, or older he will remember and he will think of the day his Grammy shared with him the artifacts from WWII that his great-grandfather fought for. My heart is full. Thank you, God, for these opportunities with my grandson.
Yet the opportunity that just touched my heart and gave me chills this week was the conversation I had with my daughter-in-law’s brother, who has Multiple Sclerosis. He has been in a wheelchair for most of his life, but MS has not impacted his brain and his thinking in any way. He is one incredible young man, and every time I am blessed to have a conversation with him, I walk away in complete awe. Last Saturday was only one example. God gave me the opportunity to have a very meaningful conversation with him that started out as a conversation about his experiences in school, and the way he was treated simply because he was in a wheelchair. The fact that people could not look past the wheelchair to see all the possibilities he has within him and all the things he can do just breaks my heart! The wheelchair just stumped them! My heart broke for him and what he experienced as a student growing up through a faulty system. I told him I was familiar with that system because I taught in Special Education for over 10 years, and I knew firsthand the mistakes made. The fact that he thanked me for being a teacher that cared and went the extra mile was truly humbling. Yet, it was when our conversation took a turn towards our mutual love for history that my heart starting racing and a chill took over my body. I started telling him of the artifacts I had found, and there was a kindred spirit instantly. I love my children, but none of them have the same love of history as I do. Yet, here was someone I had taken for granted because of his disability, and all of sudden I am looking at him in a completely different light, and I have found someone I can talk to about my love of history. I cannot wait to share with him, to have discussions with him, and hopefully to gain more insight into the treasures I have found.
My love of history comes from parents who grew up during The Great Depression, WWII, Civil Rights, and so much more. My love of American history comes from parents who grew up during periods of sacrifice yet remained faithful to their country and their beliefs in God. My love of American history comes from parents who had an appreciation for their upbringing, the history of their country, and the Christian beliefs they were taught. My love of history comes from my parents love of music and the arts, and how they exposed us to those things while we were growing up. Yet here sat before me a young man who did not have those same experiences growing up, yet he professed a love and an extreme interest in American history, and my heart leaped, and goosebumps went all over. So now we have a standing appointment where he comes to my house and I share with him all the things I consider as family treasures. No one else may consider them as family treasures, but God gave me the opportunity to discover them, God gave me the opportunity to appreciate them, and so God will give me the opportunity to share them with others and to share history of our country that every American should be proud of.
God gives us opportunities. He gives us people, places, and things to share His message. I fell short in so many opportunities, until now. I think I finally understand God’s plan and His opportunities. I needed to go through every single opportunity, every experience, each hardship and failure, and each person to understand how He continues to work in our lives and to be appreciative of the moments, the opportunities, the people, and the experiences He places in our lives. The artifacts from WWII are such a small part but they have such a huge impact on my life, my beliefs, and the impact WWII had on our nation. These photos are just a small part of that impact.