God places people and moments in our lives with a purpose.
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
There are so many moments in life that God gives us an opportunity to meet a stranger or just to reflect on the lessons He wants to teach us. Each day is a day that the Lord made, and each day has a purpose that is part of His plan. Each person we meet along the way is part of God’s plan, each person has a purpose in our lives. Let us rejoice and be glad in each person, each moment, and every single day of our lives. God knows the plan He has for us, and His plans are perfect. Rejoice and be glad in God’s plan, His purpose for our lives.
Rejoice in the moments in life that cause reflection, yet even more important that show God’s presence in our lives. Each moment reflects His purpose! Each moment gave me the opportunity to rejoice and be glad in God’s plan and purpose for my life. Each moment taught something especially important about God’s character, God’s plan for my life, and God’s grace in my lives.
There was the morning in the winter of 2016, when I went to a local grocery store to do a little shopping, and to get warm (we had been without heat for 24 hours), however, after my visit I decided God had other reasons for me to shop that morning. He just always places those people in our lives that bless us beyond measure. I had only been in the store for a few seconds, when I heard a small voice behind me, “Ma’am, excuse me? Could you help me?” I turned around and saw a small lady, probably late 70s, in one of the scooters, and she needed help reaching some things. I reached them for her, and she was so gracious and thankful for my assistance. She proceeded to talk about her recent diagnosis of cancer, and how they are treating her with an aggressive form of chemo and radiation. She was very weak but determined to get groceries. She said this had really scared her and so she was going to make healthier choices. I asked her if she was by herself, and she told me her granddaughter brought her, dropped her off, and was sitting in the car waiting for her. I immediately wanted to go have a word of prayer with the granddaughter to find out why she did not come in and help her. However, God urged me to stay with the woman, so I helped her as we went through the store. She talked about how she felt, and how God was with her through it all. I told her I was a cancer survivor myself, and she asked if she could pray for me!! We prayed together in the store. Although we may have had a cold night and morning, I have so much to be thankful for. God has a way of reminding us of those blessings, and uses the sweetest, most thankful people to remind us.
Then there was the moment where I had traveled by myself to visit my daughter in California, and when traveling back and finally arrived safe and sound in Atlanta, where Steve came and picked me up, I began to reflect on the stress and anxieties of the trip home. I realized yet again though that it is not up to us to question why things work the way they do. God is in control. In the middle of all my anxieties and uncertainties about getting home, I sat beside a young mother and her three-year-old daughter on the way back, and we started talking. They still had to make a connecting flight to Charleston after landing in Atlanta. They had been in California, visiting her estranged father for the first time in 3 years (since her daughter was born), I did not ask why they had not spoken since then. It did not seem important. What was important was the fact she said her father had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and he had asked to see her and her little girl, his granddaughter. So, she took her little girl to see her grandfather. You could tell she was still upset over the visit and her father’s health. So, we just talked. We were both teachers, so it was common ground. I told her about myself, my family, my experiences in life, and my faith in God and how it had gotten me through so much. God’s plan that day, absolutely! Get my mind off myself, and onto his mission. Planting seeds, setting examples, being a witness. If I had not been stressed, would I have reacted the same way. I do not know; I do not think so. I would have been comfortable, in my own world, and not looking for a way to get my mind off the stress. However, God knew I needed a distraction, and He knew this young mother and daughter needed someone to listen.
Then there are those innocent moments with a sweet child that do not happen often, but when they do, you know God is speaking to you and He is using that moment to tell you something. It is those times where we truly need to be still and listen. A moment when a cute little, dark-curly haired girl stops right in front of you on the beach and says, “Hi, my name is Sara, and I am two. What is your name?” I bent down to start talking to her, and her mother said she has never talked to a stranger, she did not know why she picked me to talk to. I told her I knew why. Then I looked at the little girl, and told her my name was Sara, and my mother’s name was Sara, and I have a niece named Sarah. She looked up at me and said “Cool! Look at the beautiful shell I found.” Just like that the God-moment was over in this little two-year-old life, but in my life, it was such a special God filled moment, one that will live with me forever, and just what I needed.
There are also those moments when you realize life and its moments are truly gifts from God and when you follow His directions, the blessings will be ten-fold, if not more. Steve and I were in local store one day, when I caught a glimpse of a familiar face, but I just was not quite sure. It had been 20 years! Then she turned around and smiled, and I knew it was one of my students from teaching at Carolina High, when my teaching career just got started. At Carolina, I taught a very mixed class of students with varying disabilities and it truly was a test of my patience, my ability to teach, and the beginning of my motto, “You just have to laugh as a teacher, if not you will cry every day or pull out all your hair.” This student was one of the sweetest, most caring, compassionate people I have ever known. She had a severe learning disability as well as a physical disability, but it did not stop that beautiful smile every day or that sweet spirit. When she realized it was me, she literally cried, and it took her breath away. I cried too and just hugged her! I have thought of her often over the years, and she told me she thinks of me all the time. She was with her husband and her 6-year-old son, and my heart just skipped a beat again, just knowing that she is doing well, and she is happy. Thank you, God, for your blessings! Thank you, for letting me know that past students are doing well and that they do not forget their teachers! She asked for my number so she could call, and we could catch up, and I did not hesitate! This is someone who touched my heart years ago, and I cannot wait to be able to sit down and talk with her!
I will never forget the day I substituted in a kindergarten class, and at first questioned why I agreed to substitute in an environment I had no real experience in. Yet after a short period of time in this classroom I knew God wanted me there that day and he was determined I would feel at ease and just enjoy the day. It began as soon as the students finished their morning work, they could draw or write anything they wanted to while they were waiting. The first little boy called me over to see his picture, I told him it was a great helicopter! He said, “Thank you, but did you notice it is an ambulance helicopter?” Yes, it was! Ok, God, I am listening. Then there was the little girl who brought her paper to me so I could see the words she had written, right there in front of me, “love God.” Yes, I am listening! Yet, another little girl comes up to me and said, “Mrs. Murrell, my nose really hurt last night.” “I am so sorry, what caused it to hurt so much?” Her response, “I had a really big booger in it, and I couldn’t get it out. I kept pushing, but it just wouldn’t come out!” “I just hate it when that happens.” She just smiled and said, “I do too!” and walked away. Thank you for the laughter and innocence of the little ones, God. Reflection at the end of this day, a day in the life of a teacher from a completely different grade level is always eye-opening and, in this case, very educational. God does not place us in places or classes without a reason or purpose. It may not be for our benefit initially; we may be there for someone else’s benefit. Yet, when we follow his plan we are always going to be blessed! As different and maybe just a little frustrating as that day was for me, I truly was blessed by their sweet smiling faces, their laughter, their hugs, and their enthusiasm for life.
Thank you, God!
There are also the days I was absolutely amazed at the way God spoke through my students. They did not even know He was doing the speaking, but as soon as I heard the words and got passed the chills, I knew it was God. One moment began with Social Issue Book Clubs reading groups. The social issues varied from homelessness, losing a loved one, discrimination, women’s rights, to as simple as protecting our animals and the environment. As they read, I walked around the room, sat, and talked with different groups. One conversation still resonates very personally with me. On this day, the conversation turned personal, very personal. It also eventually included the whole class instead of just the small group.
Student, “Mrs. Murrell, when you married Mr. Murrell, did you say the ‘to death do you part stuff, promise to love and honor?'”
Me, “Yes, I did!”
Student, “Did Mr. Murrell say it too?”
Me, “Yes, of course.”
Student, “When you got married the first time, did you both say it too?” (My students knew about Mike dying in the helicopter crash.)
Me, “Yes, we said it then too.”
Student, “Did he love you until he died? Did you love him? Would you have ever left him? Would he have left you?”
Me, “Yes, he loved me until he died, I loved him too! No, we would not have left each other. We promised to love and honor.”
Student, “So, Mr. Murrell loves you too and you love him? Would you leave him?”
Me, “Absolutely not! We made a promise, we meant that promise, we made a vow! We will be with each other always.”
Student, “Are you sure, Mrs. Murrell?”
Me, “Yes, I am sure!”
After a few quiet moments, she spoke again (or God spoke through her as a gentle reminder).
Student, with a big smile on her face, “Then, Mrs. Murrell, you are really lucky, aren’t you?”
Me, “Yes, honey, I am lucky. I am blessed, truly blessed.”
Student, “You really are, because you have us too!”
Welcome to my world and the insights of 5th grade girls, who do not have the blessings of strong families.
Other moments in time came through loud and clear when we decided to renovate his childhood home and make it our home. I began a blog when we started on this journey, and I wanted to share the moments during this time that God used so many moments and people to speak to me and give us His blessings for this journey, His plan for our lives. “In February, we went over to Steve’s childhood home, with the intention of cleaning it out, fixing a few things, and either renting it or selling it. I went in, thinking, “Finally, we will get it clean in a couple of weeks, get it sold, and have one less thing to worry about.” Little did I know how much life would change because, I fell in love with the memories, I fell in love with the details and handiwork that it took to make it a home, and I fell in love with the quaint little neighborhood that it was built in. My whole attitude changed at that moment. Every time I walk in its doors now, I look at it with different eyes and think about all the possibilities and all the good that will come out of this move for Steve, mother, and even myself. So the walls are going up, the ceilings are being repaired, the new floors are going in, cabinets are being built, appliances have been ordered, paint colors selected, yard work is being done (by yours truly), and the excitement is growing! Even my children come over to see the progress and are amazed and excited over the changes. The amazing thing though is that they come over to visit and make comments, like “I am glad you are not changing this because it was always special, or it was the one thing I remembered the most.” It validates our decision to do this when they recall the memories from their childhood, and they are sweet memories for them too. We added a special little something this weekend – a cute little blue golf cart, thinking it would be great for going downtown, going to Kmart or the grocery store, or just little rides around the neighborhood. Steve and I rode all around the neighborhood streets Thursday night, and it was wonderful. So peaceful and quiet, friendly neighbors waving as we rode along, and seeing houses I have not seen before and streets I had not been down yet. It was such an enjoyable thing to do on my birthday. Just ride around, enjoy each other in the simplicity of the moment. Life does not get much better than that! However, the best time was this afternoon when we took mother for a long afternoon ride, on the golf cart, around the streets she grew up on. Listening to her talk and reminisce about her childhood was incredible. We rode by her old houses (and even though they are old and run down, to her they hold incredibly special memories), her church, and up and down the streets she walked as a child and teenager. She talked about walking and playing on those streets as a child, walking and flirting as a teenager, and walking to the mill when she went to work. When we started this journey, I was looking at it through my eyes, and today I looked at it through her eyes. Life is so much different when you look at it through the eyes of those you love. I honestly believe this is part of God’s plan. As we have been going through the frustrations and holdups of reconstruction, there have been days I have questioned our decision to do this. Today, the affirmation that we are doing the right thing came through loud and clear as I listened to Steve and mother talk about their memories of days gone by. Such a sweet connection for the two of them, one that I am anxiously waiting to be a part of.” I am sharing all of this simply because today once again God used a stranger to confirm we have followed His plan for our lives. As I was working in the yard today, a sweet lady walked by, shouted out “Hi!” and then continued with “I am so glad I saw you out here today. I have been wanting to tell you how beautiful your home is again, and how lovely it is to see it well cared for again.” I walked to her and we started talking about how she grew up in this area, and she remembered this home as a child and teenager and how it was always so charming. Then the years of neglect were so sad for her and her family to watch. She talked about the streets she grew up on and the schools she went to. Her and her husband live right around the corner, and her children are grown. She talked about how her daughter talked about the changes and how much they loved everything we have done, and that we had brought charm back to the street. I could just feel Valoree and Johnnie smiling! At the end of our conversation, we shared names and she was so surprised when I told her my name was Lynne. She told me that was her daughter’s name, although her daughter says her name is really Sara! It was my turn to be shocked, when she told me her daughter’s name is Sara Lynne. Quite a chill from that one, so I had to ask how she spelled her name. “Sara Lynne”. God truly works in mysterious ways! She said she could not wait to get home and call her daughter.
There are so many moments, places, and people I could talk about. Moments, places, and people God has placed in my life that are all part of His plan. Each moment, each place, each event, and each person have blessed me beyond measure! God moments! Quite often I know I take those moments, those events, and those people for granted. That I do not look at the reason or the purpose that God placed them in my life.
My goal for this New Year of 2021, is to make sure I rejoice in each day God gives me, that I rejoice in each simple moment and with each person and event He places in my life.
“This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.” Exodus 12:2
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21
“So do not fear, for I am with you; for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
Thank you, God, for the moments, the people, the places, and the events you have placed in my life and that you will continue to place in my life. Help me to never forget to rejoice your plans, your purpose, and your name. Help me to always remember “Your grace is all I need!” 2 Corinthians 12:9