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When Someone Asks, “Are You Still…?” and You’re Not

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,

as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

-I Peter 4:10

 

This fall, I was enjoying the pumpkin farm when a woman reached out and tapped my shoulder. “Mrs. Upton?” she asked. “You used to be my teacher. I’m…”

“Lindsay!” I said. I often wonder about some of my favorite “kids,” and Lindsay is definitely tops on that list. It was so good to see her, and a little strange!  I taught high school math right after I graduated from college, and there really isn’t a huge age difference between me and those kids anymore. They’re all grown up, with careers and homes and children of their own.

I met Lindsay’s adorable daughter, and she met my children. She said to them, “Your mom was my teacher! She was such a great teacher.” Then she looked at me and asked, “Are you still teaching?”

I felt bad saying “no.” I only taught high school for four years, then I spent two years tutoring, then we moved and I stopped teaching altogether.

Or did I?

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Let’s Start Building Your House!

Way back in 2011, I realized that I’d written a mammoth book about how to organize life as a Christian.

I’d followed God’s clear call to “Write the Book” by writing all about personal, home, and family organizing for Jesus—and it was too much for one book! So I took the first half of the manuscript, added a conclusion, and called it Organizing You. That was the easy part.

The hard part was cutting out the second half of my dearly loved and prayed over content. I pasted it into a Word doc and saved it as “OY2.” But in my head, it was called “OY2??” I doubted whether anyone would ever read it.

Even now, it’s hard for me to believe that I’m able to share that content (and more!) with you in Building Your House!

 

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What Basketball, Books, and Jesus Have in Common

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8

 

I had an interesting dream last week. My little Oliver, who is 5 years old, was at the park down the street. Someone had taped a white “x” on the blacktop underneath the basketball hoop. Oliver was standing on it, holding a basketball, looking up, ready to shoot.

Then suddenly I was looking at a different boy under a different hoop. Think Opie from Mayberry—it was clearly the 1950’s. Someone had marked an “x” in the dirt underneath the hoop (no, I’m not saying they didn’t have blacktop in the 1950’s—this was a dream, people). The boy was standing on it, holding a basketball, looking up, ready to shoot.

And I thought, Basketball hasn’t changed. He’ll either make it, or he won’t.

And I was so deeply comforted.

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How Not to Serve Lemonade (or Jesus)

No one wanted my lemonade.

My husband, Travis, and I were serving at a soup kitchen, and my job was to serve the lemonade. I poured twenty cups, arranged them in a neat four by five rectangle, and waited for the thirsty patrons to arrive. And they came… but they all wanted water. I stood forlornly with my hand gripping the pitcher, a dismal failure as Chief Lemonade Pourer.

This is what Travis jokingly calls the “Serve with Shan” effect. Alas, it seems that whenever I participate in a service project there is no one to serve. Three hours volunteering at a donation center with but one lonely drop-off. Six hours at a food pantry with only three shoppers.

And here’s the one Travis teases me about the most: a nursing home visit during which not a single resident wanted to visit with us, despite how I was waiving around my three month-old baby. Didn’t they want to meet my smiling bundle of cuteness?

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Rejoicing in Success

The Lord your God is with you,

the Mighty Warrior who saves.

He will take great delight in you;

in his love he will no longer rebuke you,

but will rejoice over you with singing.”

—Zephaniah 3:17

 

Today I looked at my five year-old with undisguised admiration. I’d taught him the rules of an “Ages 8 and up” game called Monopoly Empire, and he was quickly picking up its nuances and strategy. In fact, he’d just beaten me fair and square.

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Welcome to Alabama

My sister, her husband, and their three daughters had an eventful trip home from vacation last week. The baby had a fever, their GPS took them down a rabbit trail, they had to make many, many stops… and then they hit Alabama.

Alabama is a tall state. When you’re driving north from Florida to Ohio, Alabama seems to go on forever.

When they finally hit the Tennessee border, the five of them celebrated with honking and shouting. Hooray for the short state of Tennessee! My brother-in-law even shouted, “Tennessee Milkshakes for everyone!” (Yes, he knows Tennessee Milkshakes aren’t a thing—that just goes to show how excited they were.)

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The Never-Ending Story

Read it! Ruth 4:18-22

Salmon the father of Boaz,

Boaz the father of Obed,

 Obed the father of Jesse,

and Jesse the father of David.

(vs 21-22)

Think it through

Ruth married Boaz and had a beautiful baby boy. They loved each other and built a life together. Naomi was joyful again. End of story, Amen.

At least that’s what Ruth must have thought. As she lived the rest of her life, I’m sure she looked back on her time of struggle with thankfulness, and maybe a little nostalgia mixed in. The dramatic part of her story came and went, and she probably thought that was all God had in store for her.

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When Our Efforts to Serve God Don’t Pan Out

Read it!: II Samuel 7

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and he said:

Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family,

that you have brought me this far?

(vs 18)

Think it through:

David had a great idea. He wanted to build a beautiful, permanent temple for the Ark of the Covenant, which had been housed in a series of temporary dwellings. This idea seemed so right, so true, that he couldn’t wait to get started! But then Nathan, a prophet of God, told David that God said the job needed to wait. Building the temple wasn’t work for David, but for one of his sons.

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I’m All In!

Read it! This is a look back at the “Being Instrumental with Paul” series.

You may want to review any notes you’ve made, actions you’ve taken,

or prayers you’ve written.

 

Think it through

When I started this series on the life of Paul, I had no idea how meaningful it would be to me.   Acts is a powerful book about the spread of the Gospel of Christ and I love it! But when you distill Acts to a view of Paul’s life like we just did, it can hit you in a different and equally powerful way.

Paul was an instrument of God like few other men have been. His story showed me that God’s instruments are willing to…

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A Confident Leader with a Dependent Heart

Read it! Acts 27

Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve

stood beside me and said,

“Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar;

and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.”

(vs 23-24)

 

Think it through

Acts 27 reads like an adventure story—a true one! To be in the midst of a “northeaster,” on a ship with ropes tied around it to keep it together…to be lost at sea for two weeks…to throw over cargo and tackle with your own hands just to keep the ship afloat…and after all of that, to look to one of the ship’s prisoners to be the heroic leader.

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