My little one and I are on full-fledged “school’s out” schedule. Like the, “We have no clue what day it is at any point of the week. And who cares?” attitude. I’m not condoning it, but that’s how we roll around here. Jammies till noon? Go for it. A Zootopia (for the billionth time) party starting at 10 pm? Sure. If watching a movie more than 10 times in a week is wrong, we don’t want to be right. 

I’m having all the feels this week. And I know a lot of friends who are experiencing ALL THE FEELS lately, as well. Maybe this is just for me, but I kind of doubt it. If stresses and life events were to dictate how I felt about my faith in Jesus right now, it wouldn’t be pretty. And I’d be one sorry hot mess of a girl. Those seasons in life when it seems that you have no mountaintops, only valleys, when circumstances beyond your control try to sweep you under the water, and your head can barely stay above the waves, when your cries and groaning seem to fall on deaf ears. You know what I mean. It’s then that I have to stop and look through my History 101 notes. Skim them for wisdom, encouragement, truth, and even rebuke. So. Rude.

Allow me to invite you to look into my classroom window last week. Monday was our annual Field Day. It called for rain, but we were able to manage due to awesome P.E. teachers. I did get out of being in the dunk tank, however. But I’m a glutton for punishment and secretly like every second of it. Tuesday was the “hand out yearbooks, chaos ensues, Sharpies flying, teachers writing in yearbooks till our carpal tunnel we didn’t know we had comes out in full force, tears are flowing down the cheeks of 6th grade girls who are leaving friends, most of whom they will see the next day at the pool, and we ALL watch the clock till 1:10, and just like that, another school year is in the books” day. Parts of me die inside a little every year.

Did I do everything I could to prep them for scary Middle School? Because whether I like it or not, even if things are rough for me behind the scene, school should be a safe place. An inviting place to learn through whatever means necessary. To empower students to believe in themselves, even when nobody else does, except me.

Contrary to my recent belief, even if it’s a been a while since a mountaintop has been in view, God is still good. He’s good at school. He’s good at home. He allows me to touch 75 young lives a year. It isn’t easy, by any means. Especially at the end of the year when you have a list of to-do’s, and all  you want to do is take a nap. And that ONE kid is still pushing your buttons and you grit your teeth and smile, and pray for his next year’s teachers. 

In the middle of this, my besties and I had to pack up many years of our lives into boxes, tape them shut, stack them, remove every evidence that we were there, and prepare to leave a building that is home. That familiar place where no masks are necessary. Where we steal chocolate without asking. Where we laugh and cry, usually in the same conversation, where we’ve experienced grief over lost ones, rejoiced in births of babies, hunkered down for tornadic activity, danced in the pod when the kids leave, and generally have zero secrets. Which is a dangerous thing.

As we embark on new adventures due to district reconfiguring, walking out of Room 704 was gut-wrenching. I swear I packed over 60 boxes. What in the world? I purged trash. I laughed at what I kept over the years. Seriously, Mary. Toss it. We didn’t exactly ask for this new venture and frankly,

I’m still processing it. Because I’m leaving my tribe. The girls who expect my antics and can see them coming a mile away. There’s no trying to impress here. It’s just comfortable. Like a favorite blanket and book while cuddling up one the couch on a rainy day. It just feels right. The macaroni to my cheese. The peanut butter to my jelly. And in my feeble mind, I can’t even begin to imagine life without them beside me every day. But, in the end, even at the end of this chapter, God is still good. I may not have asked for some of these valleys this last year, but I don’t recall God asking for my permission. 

I’ve found myself in the book of Daniel lately. Talk about being inconvenienced. I’ve never been deported to a new land after mine was conquered. And I whined about packing a zillion boxes. Facing the realization that I had a choice to make; I blend in and go with the flow to stay low-key or I do refuse to bow down and go against everything I hold dear. Daniel was the man. He faced an egocentric leader and idolatry on all sides.

Honestly, I may have remained the wall flower and prayed that no one noticed me. Not Daniel. He chose to hold fast to his faith, no matter the cost. Daniel didn’t ask to be uprooted and live under Nebuchadnezzar’s rule.  He and his buddies, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were fine looking young dudes. Smart, quick to learn on the 3-year fast track to be of the king’s service.

They caused quite a stir from the beginning refusing to eat the royal food and wine offered them. They traded that deal in for vegetables and water for ten days. That may have been a game changer right there. Not shockingly, they came out of this vegetable diet even stronger and healthier than the others. They kept brushing up on all sorts of knowledge, and Daniel even got the “let me interpret your dreams” gig. This pushed Daniel right up there to rule over Babylon, and got his buddies jobs as administrators. 

And this is where life’s circumstances were about to roll in with a vengeance and God’s sovereignty was to unfold in a big, big way. He doesn’t do small. God had placed these four young men in positions that He ordained long before they were captured. He was working out His plan for Babylon and its people way before this.

Unfortunately, it involved some very scary faith leaps. Like big ones. Remember, during this entire time of rule, these guys never bowed down to even one idol, stepped out of God’s leading, or succumbed to the temptation to use their power for evil. So when Mr. Ego, himself, built the mammoth of a gold statue in his image for all of his people to worship, God’s sovereignty already had this bump in the road covered. When the herald announced to be listening for horns, flutes, zithers, lyres, harps, and all sorts of musical instruments, and then bow immediately to worship said gold statue, or off to the fiery furnace you went, things got a little tense. 

And this is where I want to land today. We all know where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego wound up. Their refusal to bow down to anyone but God, and claiming that they don’t have to even defend their position on the matter, gives me all the feels again. With every valley, scary season, and wondering if their prayers were being heard, they refused to bow. Just like that. They knew full well the consequences of doing so.

Circumstances had thrown them into the middle of a life-altering moment, where their faith was being tested in a way much bigger than mine ever has. And oh, the response, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the GOD we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your majesty, that we will NOT serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. (Daniel 3: 17-18, New International Version, NIV).

I’m speechless most of the time I read this. The confidence they show. The trust they put into God’s promises, their ability to recognize valleys as temporary, and their deep-rooted belief that even IF God chose not to deliver them, He is still good. That their current circumstances certainly don’t define God’s goodness.

And our circumstances most surely shouldn’t define who God is either. Even when our faith is being shaken to the core, our world seems all out of whack, and we shake our heads in despair, He is all-knowing. All of these places where we find ourselves are perfectly fitting into the curves of His hands and He will overcome. Every single time. History shows us that. As will the future.  I’ve got a few boxes to unpack next month. A few more valleys to climb out of. And even I don’t quite make it out all the way, He’s good. So, so good.

Mary Roth

Mary Roth

"The One who calls you is faithful , and he will do it" (I Thessalonians 5:24)