Author: Chele Dove

The Covid Quarantine Part 2

The Covid Quarantine Part 2

Its Losses and Gains

By Sydney

I try to live my life for God and make a conscious effort to walk in faith. But time and time again I mess it up. Again and again, I do things for myself, and I fail and have to go running back to what I know is right like a little child. I’ve had situations like this several times over the last few years, but especially during quarantine. Being stuck at home meant that the main person I could spend time with was myself. It wasn’t fun. I made some poor choices….but I’m thankful for those choices, because from them, I’ve been able to grow my faith and trust more in God.

A Personal Testimony

One choice, in particular, helped me get my priorities in check and truly get to where I needed to be. At first I allowed my selfish desires to pull me away from God and into a relationship that wasn’t healthy, and my stubbornness told me that I could make it work. I tried to convince myself that I knew what I was doing, that I could handle this on my own and everything would be fine.

It wasn’t my fault that the doubters felt that way. But in the end, many of the things that happened with that person were my fault because I wasn’t following God and doing what I knew was right. It took a heart-to-heart with my parents for me to realize that as much as I hated to admit it, I was not in control, and I didn’t need to be. God was (and is) in control. God knew what was happening and he had a plan.

God ALWAYS Has a Plan

And if you find yourself in a bit of trouble like I did, you can hold to this promise. “For God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.” Romans 8:28

God has a plan for me and for you that’s better than anything we could hope for.

What I learned is that when we try to do things ourselves they tend to get a little messy and disastrous. This is why it’s important that we have a firm faith in God now and not wait until we’re in the midst of a “storm” to begin to be sure of what we believe as Jesus says here in Matthew 7:24-27.

Consequences, consequences…

If I hadn’t chosen to follow my parents and trust that God would brings things through, I’d still be in that relationship and who knows what other bad things would be happening. Seemingly small choices can lead to big consequences, and sometimes all it takes is a small choice in the right or wrong direction to dramatically affect our trajectory in life.

Likewise, seemingly small or routine, habitual choices can sharpen your faith, and surrounding yourself with Godly influences can set you up for long-term success that you can’t even imagine right now. God created the universe, and if he can do that, then surely he can help you with your struggles and help you find purpose. He did for me.

When we take hold of our faith and begin to make it a core aspect of our person, beautiful things start happening in life! God starts surrounding you in this magnificent, awe-inspiring “peace that surpasses all understanding” that gives you the hope you need to make it through the day.

The Choice Is Yours

Quarantine, and life in general, is what you and God make of it together. This part is especially for my fellow students: Isn’t it interesting how, even though we may wholeheartedly believe and truly think we are 100% devoted to God,  sometimes our faith can almost seem like it still belongs to our parents?

I can understand why. They put so much time and energy into growing us into amazing disciples of God, but we won’t be in their house forever. Eventually we will be standing on our own and need to make sure we understand what we believe. When the trials of life attack us without them, how can we defend something we haven’t taken responsibility for? I’m not saying it’s bad that they are involved in our development – that’s their job – but maybe it’s time we took full responsibility for our own faith. That is if you haven’t already, of course.

Moving Forward in Faith

To start owning your faith, really look at what you believe. Is it confirmed in the Bible? The Bible is where we go to confirm truth. Make sure you understand everything you’ve been taught. If you don’t – ask questions of your Godly mentors! Read your Bible more.

This is the time to make sure our faith is built on a foundation of rock, just like it says in the Matthew passage above. Every day is a new chance to grow our faith and expand our horizons, and this process starts with the choices we may see as small or insignificant. Still, they can turn out to be exactly what God needs to do something spectacular with your life. 

Choosing Means Being Intentional

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “Yeah ok, I’ve already done this,” but have your friends? Talk to them about it, because while yes, this is a time when we can grow TOWARDS Christ, this is also the time when we are in danger of moving AWAY from Christ. We can’t always know the battles someone else is facing, and sometimes the best way to be a vessel for God is to just start a conversation and let Him lead it. There is a pearl of wisdom that my pastor often uses that says  “If  you aren’t growing, you’re dying.”

While this is a little unsettling, it’s so true.  I’ve heard so many testimonies and stories where individuals started to fall away from Christ in their high school years, but they didn’t know how to ask for help. Without someone speaking God’s truth into their life, their faith slowly faded away. 

Purpose Equals Possibilities

That’s where we can come in and be instruments for God.  Imagine how strong we could all be if we took this time to strengthen each other and really help one another grow. We are living our story right now. While it’s not our whole story, it could be a very important part.  What you experience now is going to be what God can use in the future to encourage others. Whether that’s through group devotions or just in a simple, everyday conversation, God could be stirring something in someone’s heart through you. Hearing what you have to say about His influence on your life could tip the scale and set off a chain reaction of incredible events no one saw coming. 

Become an Encourager

So you have a choice: what is your story going to be? One where you fell away and had to get back on track? Or will it be one where you followed God everyday and helped encourage your friends to do the same? If your parents are anything like mine, they talk all the time about “Finding friends who encourage you in the Word.” While we do need to find those people, we also need to BECOME those people. So I urge you to take action and become the encourager you wish you had during your own trials! The choice is yours! 

More Resources

For more inspiration on being positive through the trials of life, read Eric Liddell’s biography, Eric Liddell: Something Greater Than Gold, by Janet and Geoff Benge. I highly recommend it!

The Covid Quarantine – Its Losses and Gains

PART 1: From a homeschool student athlete’s perspective

By Sydney

The Covid-19 pandemic forced me to put my uniform and cleats in storage.

Coronavirus Cleared My Calendar

There are nearly eight million high school athletes in America. I am one of 488,592 female varsity trackletes who were affected by the Covid-19 outbreak, and this is the story of how I strove to find light in the darkness of these unfamiliar times. It is a story shared in many ways by all spring athletes across the world, not to mention its challenging effect on all of our learning environments.

Our track season had just begun in February of 2020, and it looked so promising. I am a hurdler, and that requires skill and coordination. At only our third practice, I was finally getting the hang of a more complex step pattern, which I had been working on since the beginning of last season. However, this season – my first varsity season – was in serious jeopardy. It was looking like that letter patch wasn’t going to be in my immediate future. 

My brothers’ basketball season with the Wildcats was cut short, my friend’s baseball season was canceled, and even though my teammates and I hoped and prayed that the Coronavirus would not become a big deal, it still eliminated our entire 2020 track season. We remained hopeful, meeting at parks to run together and continuing to train with hopes that maybe we could still have meets in May, but clearly it was all in vain. 

We were devastated. Especially the seniors.

My Classes Were Deconstructed

Being an athlete during the pandemic was challenging, but so was being a student.  From various posts and memes online, I know a lot of people thought that homeschooling would stay the same – I can testify that it did NOT. I took some classes at a local academic homeschool group, and things changed a ton. Classes were deconstructed, and thrown onto unfamiliar platforms like Zoom, just like they were for public schoolers. Group projects were canceled. Field trips that we had been looking forward to were wiped from the schedule. Prom, which was mine and my friend’s first chance to go, and which we had been looking forward to for so long, was canceled in just a single email. Just like that, I had NOTHING to do. Or, at least, so I thought.

But…Not All Was Lost

While in the beginning I felt very cut off and lonely, just like I’m sure many of you felt as well, I tried to make the most of it.

I could relax and take my time, without having to rush, and I could get all my school and chores done before practice or whatever activity we would usually have had that evening. My grades improved because they were my main priority. I completed drivers ed over quarantine, so I was able to get my permit once the BMV opened back up.

If something interested me, I had even MORE time to dive into it, because I had nothing else on my mind.

I Got to Know Me

More than anything else though, I was able to search myself and my heart to gain a deeper understanding of who I am becoming and who God made me to be.

I had spent so much time and energy on everything else before being quarantined, that I never really slowed down and got to know myself. Finally, I was able to take this time and pick out my strengths and weaknesses, using that knowledge to improve my character. I was also able to build on old hobbies and develop new ones. I hadn’t played piano in years, but because of the free time I had, I was able to pick it back up. With this strengthened skill, I will be able to help lead worship for our church in a new way when it opens back up!

God Is ALWAYS Working

This example just shows how amazing God truly is. I understand that this isn’t the most exciting COVID-19 story, but excitement isn’t everything. We know that God works in every circumstance. It doesn’t matter how big or small your story or experience is, God is GOING to use it. 

So as the world continues to open up in 2021, ask yourself this question: How could God use my story? Don’t panic if you can’t think of an answer right now. He will use it eventually, so keep your eyes open. Being vulnerable to you about my experience in this blog is part of how God is using my story, and I’m excited to see what he does with it!

If you’re still struggling with the repercussions of 2020, or if you just need a hand in processing all that has happened, there will be a Part 2 of this post next Monday which will tell how I got through my version of the pandemic struggles.

Until then, I recommend surrounding yourself with God by filtering your social media and music choices, and spending time in prayer,  in the Bible and with others who are walking with God too (see my blog post here called Staying Connected through Distance).

Remember that you are not alone! He is with you (Joshua 1:9). Sometimes all it takes is saying to yourself and believing in your heart, “I know this isn’t permanent, and no matter what happens God will bring good from it.”

If you don’t have a Bible at home, here are some free, online resources:

YouVersion Bible App

Also, here are some helpful song choices to get you through difficult times:

All This Time, by Brit Nicole

Even Then, by Micah Tyler

Reason, by Unspoken

Staying Connected through Distance

Staying Connected through Distance

By Sydney

The best laid plans…

Emma was so excited to start the new year. She was especially excited for spring. The snow was gone, the sky was blue and everything was fresh and full of promises. She had so many good things going for her that she felt invincible. Nothing could stop her from meeting with her new friend, Sarah, for coffee. Nothing could prevent her from interviewing for her dream job. Her schedule for the next week was packed, and she was incredibly excited about it. However, the one thing she didn’t plan for was the validity of all the Coronavirus rumors. She didn’t expect a global pandemic to empty her planner, but it most certainly did.  

Everything changed…

Suddenly, Emma was left feeling isolated and worried. She never got to go in for the interview because she had to stay home. She never got to spend time with that friend because all the coffee shops closed. Her grades slipped because she didn’t understand the lessons she was being taught virtually, and she was too embarrassed to ask for help. She tried to maintain hope because she knew this wouldn’t last forever, but it was hard. Six months passed, and everyone else was going back to life like nothing happened, but since her brother has always battled severe asthma, she is still stuck in March – completely alone, helpless, and abandoned.

A spark of hope…

Not long after all of this, she gets a call. She hasn’t talked to anyone except her family in so long. It’s her new friend who I mentioned earlier, Sarah. Sarah wants to meet for coffee and catch up, since their previous date got cancelled. Emma has to explain that due to her brother’s severe underlying health condition, she is still under strict quarantine. It’s not her fault, or even her brother’s fault, but it’s the way things are – unfortunately. 

“That’s no big deal! We don’t have to meet in person, all we need is a cup of homemade coffee, a computer, and time to spare!” says Sarah, and in fifteen minutes she is having that coffee date over ZOOM. In just a few minutes, she has new hope. She feels reconnected to the world. It’s not the same as meeting in person, but it’s so much better than not talking at all! She gets that face-to-face interaction without the fear of getting infected. Even though she may need to stay in quarantine for much longer, she can still spend time with her friends. She isn’t forgotten, and she definitely isn’t alone.

COVID can’t take everything…

While the characters in my story are fictional, many of us have experienced some element of this story in our own lives. In March, the Coronavirus stole much of our control and peace of mind. It demanded our attention and took many things that it didn’t have a right to take – such as our time, our plans, our jobs and in some cases the lives of the people we love. Most importantly, it challenged our courage. COVID-19 struck fear into the hearts of many, and demolished the joy of people who deserved much better.  

Life doesn’t have to stay this way!

With the power of technology, we can be a friend like Sarah! We can keep our own friends connected now and during any future quarantines. We have been given the tools needed to take back some of what the Coronavirus stole! That virus is sure it has the upper hand in this scenario, but we can invalidate the power it thinks it has over us and be victorious once again. With simple acts like inviting someone to a game of Online Pictionary or making a quick phone call, we have a multitude of ways to make a difference in peoples’ lives.

God knew what he was doing when he allowed the virus to become as big as it is, he has a plan with all of this and we can be part of it. He works all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). This is an opportunity to intentionally bring light and joy into peoples’ lives. So, without further adieu, let’s dive into some of these options! This list also works for any friend experiencing a long term illness, or any long-distance friendship/relationship. We can stay connected!

Group Chats and Group Calls

There are several platforms that provide a place for you and your friends to have group text conversations and group video calls. From open group video calls on HouseParty, to exclusive chats on Google Hangouts, there are numerous ways to connect

HousePartyThis app allows you to video chat with friends in rooms that (Unless locked) are open to any of your friends who want to join you. Up to 8 people can join your conversation. They have even added a feature where you can link Fortnite to your room and houseparty together while you play. 

Google Hangouts – This app links to your Email and allows you to have group chats with up to 150 people. My friends and I use this VERY often since it’s extremely user friendly. Chats and calls are limited to only people you invite to join. Hangouts was recently updated so that all calls go through Google Meets which allows 10 people when calling with Gmail or Google Workspace Basics.

Facebook Rooms – Facebook recently updated Messenger adding the new feature called Rooms. This allows you to create video calls with up to 50 people for an unlimited amount of time. We used this to communicate with our family on Thanksgiving and it worked beautifully. It’s easy to set up too, you simply invite the Facebook friends you want to chat with to join the room and go from there!

Watch Party, GroupWatch, and Teleparty

Before COVID, my best friend and I loved having movie nights together. There is almost nothing better than having your bff over so you can cry together over some ridiculously dramatic Rom-Com or sing along to your favorite musical — which for us at the time was The Greatest Showman, however now it would have to be Hamilton. Thanks to the addition of Watch Party, GroupWatch, and Teleparty on some of the most popular streaming services we haven’t had to stop! We can still watch all our favorite movies together from the safety of our home.

Watch Party – With Watch Party you can watch any movie featured on Prime video (You can tell that a movie fits this criteria if you can hit “Watch Now” without having to watch ads or purchase a subscription to something like HBO or Starz) with up to 100 friends. To create, simply find a movie, hit the “Watch Party” button, enter your name, then copy and share the link with your friends or family. 

GroupWatch – When starting a movie on Disney+ you can invite up to 6 people to join you with this feature. Simply select the “GroupWatch” button and share your link!

TelepartyThis is an extension you can download on your computer to create streaming parties with Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and HBO. Simply start a movie with your desired streaming service, then hit the extension to make it a party. You can now share your link with up to 50 people.

Skribbl: Online Pictionary

Pictionary is a classic. Artistic talent (or lack thereof) helps really make this game interesting. I believe the funniest part is revealing what exactly your friend was trying to draw! It really brings to light how we all see things differently. is a website that provides free online pictionary. It’s super easy to set up, and even easier to enjoy. Simply go to the website, enter your name and customize your avatar, hit the “Create Private Room” button and invite up to 12 people to join you! You can customize details such as how many rounds you’d like to play per game and how long you want to give the person drawing.

Buzzfeed Quiz Party: Group Personality Quizzes

A personal hobby of my best friend and I is taking Buzz feed quizzes to find out what kind of bread we would be or what year we might meet our soulmates. A feature buzzfeed added recently that has made this a million times better is Buzzfeed Quiz Party. The Buzzfeed Quiz Party feature allows us to take quizzes together and compare results instantaneously. The host creates the party and invites the participants to join. Once the party is started, the host can pick which quizzes the party takes then results are revealed at the end of each quiz!

Scavenger Hunt

When I was much younger, my friends and I always loved a good scavenger hunt. We felt like explorers following clues to find the objects someone had hidden around the back yard. Even though we can’t meet in person now, we can still do just this. Simply share a list of objects with your friends (for example: A cool leaf, something red, something that reminds you of a fond memory, something you think another person in your group would like etc.) Once everyone is clear on the things they’re looking for, set a time limit and go find your things! At the end of your time, send pictures of the objects you found, (Or get really snazzy by starting a video call to present your treasures) and have fun getting to know your friends even better!

Group Challenges

With the world shut down and nowhere to go, it may seem terribly difficult to find motivation in our day to day life. The easiest way of living is to indulge in not wearing real pants for a month straight and drink nothing except coffee. What if instead of doing things like this, we try to challenge ourselves to build better habits over quarantine so when we come out an even better version of ourselves? You can try challenging your friends to join you in a self-care marathon, finding everything you can to improve and holding each other accountable to the things you choose to change.

Let’s Get Creative

Amplify the good that can come out of this time of quarantining and social distancing, and don’t let your precious time go to waste! Even though some of us are being pulled in and out of quarantine, depending on our exposure, we can still stay connected.

These are all just suggestions and ideas. You know what you and your friends like, so try customizing them to fit your style! Do you have any special things your family and friends have come up with over quarantine? Let us know in the comments.

But God Knew… Begins Anew

But God Knew… Begins Anew

It has been some time since I have been able to devote myself to this blog or my writing. Our family has experienced a few years of great trial with first our son’s health, then my husband’s and while that was all going on, I had a neck surgery to correct wear and tear from my previous fusions. I feel that now, in 2021, in this time of turmoil for the country and the world at large, I am finally free to put my writing and teaching back on a front burner. This But God Knew… blog is going to help with both.

This blog, in the technology age, let’s be honest – it’s old. I won’t deny it.

However, I believe, that in Christ, it will be raised to new life this year, even as we maintain the same concept. We want to talk about how God interacts with us in our lives. For those who love Him and are called according to His purposes, he brings good of all things, and we want to proclaim it. We want to put His love for us on display. We want to exhibit how He walks with us through each daily challenge. He always has a plan to bless us regardless of how difficult the circumstances may seem in any given moment.

And really, who hasn’t experienced difficulty in the last year?? We could all use a little (or a lot) of that kind of encouragement, don’t you think?

The something new is that I will be bringing on guest writers who have their own stories to share, even as I share my own stories. Our first guest writer is doing at minimum, a three-part series from the teen, female athlete perspective. Let me introduce you to one of my writing students, Sydney.

Sydney is a homeschool sophomore in high school, taught primarily by her mother Laura. She is a Christian athlete who competes in both track and cross country for a homeschool athletic group called Indy Genesis here in south central Indiana. She is the oldest of four children and also the daughter of Jon, a major who recently retired from the National Guard.

Her siblings include two brothers and one sister, who she lovingly calls hooligans. Good-natured insults aside, she strives to be the best possible sister and friend, and is so intentional about that, you could almost call it a hobby. She’s passionate about her relationship with God and she loves to write.

She hopes her pieces here on the blog will encourage others to be the best version of themselves, as she herself works daily to become while she pursues an ever closer relationship with Christ.

I can’t wait to publish her pieces so you can see her heart! We will begin with the first one this Monday, February 8th. Look for it here on the blog and on all of the But God Knew… social media pages.

Making life lemonade

Life can be so HARD! I’ve had whole years of my life when each day was filled with the kinds of challenges that make me tempted to ask Jesus to come back NOW, whether it’s in His plan or not. During these times, I was willing to beg if necessary. Pride was out the window, and begging was very much on the table.

Mother’s Day marked two years since the turning point of one such time in my life, and this week we get to celebrate the victory parade. See, on January 28, 2014, I had an intensive back surgery which was supposed to take 3-6 hours. However, 14 hours later, I was finally wheeled into recovery after what I’m told were a couple of close calls. I can neither confirm nor deny this, as I was drugged quite efficiently. The palor on my husband’s face was some indication though.

After this surgery, a downright difficult rehab dragged on. I mostly laid in a hospital bed which was set up in my living room, dealing with a multitude of physical symptoms that seemed as if they would bury me. I cried out to God on a nearly minute by minute basis during those first three months, and at least hourly for the next two.

When I was finally blessed with enough endurance to sustain a drive to the corner pharmacy, I was wiped out when I got home. I pleaded, “Oh God, I’m not ready for this life stuff. Make it go away for a little longer, please.” God is so good though. He told me no when two days later my husband needed me to drive him to the ER for a septic infection in his knee.

All the way to the hospital, I remember repeating in my head, “I can only do this through your strength. Jesus sustain me. Your Grace is sufficient for me.” Over and over, this was the refrain in my mind. “I know you never give us more than we can bear, Lord. Thank you for that!”

My dear husband’s first-time stay in the hospital  lengthened into what would become 8 days, and I sat up in a chair near his bed more in this period of time than I had sat in my whole 4 1/2 months of recovery. The begging began in earnest, “Please, Daddy, please. No more. Please protect us, and make it stop.”

As I brought him home from the hospital, I felt a hope begin to grow that we could at long last, move forward and be stronger, healthier people. Afterall, my husband was in this position because he had worn himself out taking care of me, our home, our kids and doing his job. He deserved a break, and so did I, right? Recovery had been painful and scary, leaving scars that still hurt today. Yes, we all needed a break, and surely God could see that. He sees everything. Yes, God knew, and my confidence in His willingness to spare us more stress and health issues was rock solid. Nothing could shake it, or so I thought.

As I was sitting in a lab with Brad, waiting to get his follow-up blood work done, I received a call from my best friend, who so lovingly cared for our boys during much of my recovery. It was not news about the break for which I had been hoping, but we certainly got a break…or at least, our oldest son did.

An extemely active child, he is always getting into major and minor scrapes, like breaking his arm, getting stitches in his chin, a few concussions…did I mention he was born blue and has always had severe asthma and allergies? Yeah, keeping him healthy is no more of a picnic than it is for me. So it was no surprise when my friend told me he had broken his arm…again…literally while I was taking care of a medical issue for his Dad, and desperately trying to hold my own body together.

Then I hear in my head, “Be brave and courageous, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

He was with me when I nearly died during my surgeries. He was there when Caleb was born not breathing and took four hours to stabilize. He was there with endurance and energy when I had to drive my husband to the hospital and sit with him for that long week. He was there now. Yes, God knew.

Just as God the Son knew that Peter, who asked to walk on water like Jesus was doing, would fall and nearly drown in the waves. Jesus knew Peter would take his eyes off the source of his strength, and stumble. That’s  why He was right there with a hand out to help him up when Peter called for Him.

It felt as though I was drowning too, but that’s when I realized I was throwing up prayers, but the eyes of my heart were focused on the problems, not The Solution. I was asking Jesus for help, but not putting my hand out expectantly to grasp the one who could provide it.

As this truth washed over me, I felt real strength and peace coursing through me. I started thanking God for the way He helped us endure these trials, instead of begging Him to make them stop. I smiled to think of how we would someday look back on this as a period of growth. I know it’s cliché, but I was taking the sour lemons Satan threw at my family and I, and letting God make some lemonade of our life.

So when Nate contracted strep throat later that week, I had my eyes on Jesus, so we soared right over that. When Caleb fell three times in the 10 days after getting casted, and had to have surgery, we had our eyes on Jesus. So, we ran that marathon, and we did not grow weary. As we spent the better part of two months driving Brad to work and wound care appointments, we walked, but did not faint. God was faithful, and with our eyes on Jesus, we could see it.

You see, God also knew that this truth of His blessing in our lives, even in tough times, would help someone else see Him, draw near to Him, and feel how very loved they are by Him. He was asking us to “take up [our] cross and follow Him.”

The question we had to answer was, would we choose it? Would we keep our eyes on Jesus, or shrivel under the pressure of difficulty. Would we let the lemons go to waste, or open our lives up for God to sweeten us and make us useful?

Could we possibly take up that heavy, splintery, humiliating cross, and drag it up a hill while many in our lives watched from the sidelines? Could we really handle all of this with Christ-like Grace?

No, probably not. Otherwise, Jesus could have stayed in Heaven. We knew we could try though, and learn something along the way. We could be open to the positive, and be willing to love sacrificially. Or…or, we could throw up the floodgates and simply be pipelines of God’s love to each other, and those around us. Choices, choices.

I’m not going to say we did any of these things well, but we tried well. We got through it. We learned from it. We were better, stronger, wiser and more compassionate for it.

It was like standing up on a stage and getting lemons thrown at us from all sides. We were bruised, and our cuts burned from the acidic quality of our circumstances. Then Jesus came on stage…the minute we asked him. He picked up the lemons, and showed us how to use them for refreshment, energy and relief.

He can do that, you know. He can take any situation and, show us how to squeeze the goodness from it, using it for our good and His Glory. If we would just ask.

And not to go all Pollyanna on you, but I’m so glad we did.




Life Lessons from 3rd Grade

By the second grade, I was impossibly awkward in every sense of the word. On my first day of first grade, I had already been established as the “nerdiest of nerds,” so by second grade there was no where to go but teacher’s pet. This became known clearly to the students of our grade without any extra effort on my part. To make matters more complicated, I was 5’1″ tall when I started second grade. I gathered a reputation as not only the nerdiest kid in the second grade, but also the best chance at defeating any bullies in the older grades. I had been, after all, taller than one of my first grade teachers…barely.

While I was trying to take all this in, wondering how any of it even happened to me, I got another shock. One of my best friends, Melissa, took me aside in the bathroom, and whispered six horrific words into my ear, which, I’m sure, shall forever live in infamy for both of us: “You need to wear a bra.”

It was as if she said the sentence through a molasses filter. My brain just couldn’t compute. “What?” I asked, my heart also refusing to accept the truth of her statement. She repeated her embarrassing comment at a slightly louder decibel level and in the most loving way possible, “You need to wear a bra. I had to start wearing one too, and boys look at you funny.”

How could this be? I was 8!! Surely, I hadn’t heard her right…right? So I asked her to say it again. The embarrassment must have been paramount, because suddenly, she yelled it at me…staccato…like each word was it’s own sentence.  It was a growing moment for both of us, and to this day, I am very grateful she was brave enough to tell me that. However, someone must have been in a bathroom stall, because the conversation was all over the playground that afternoon, before I’d even had a chance to have a similarly difficult conversation with my mother. Sigh.

Having grown to 5’6″ tall, it was from this background, physically and socially awkward in the highest degree, that I entered 3rd grade, and Mrs. Billings class. It was her last year to teach. After 35 years of teaching mostly 3rd grade, she was changing out the chalk for the new excitement and adventure of retirement. That’s what she told us it would be…an adventure. She believed that with her whole heart too.

You see, Mrs. Billings had a different way of looking at life, proven by the first different thing I really noticed about her classroom. It was a sentence, in 18″, all-capital letters, hung over the chalkboard.


Now, I happened to remember clearly from 2nd grade spelling, and the many books I had read (nerdiest nerd, remember?), that it was most certainly a word. As book smart as I was, I hadn’t gotten the concept of symbolism yet, and so, being me, I raised my hand to question the teachers presumption. I tried to let her down “easy” in my mind. I must have sounded like a total smart aleck to the average person, but not to Mrs. Billings. She did what all good teachers do. She proceeded to educate me.

“I’m glad you asked that Michele (every teacher called me Michele until 8th grade). Class, why don’t you all sit down please. I’m going to answer Michele’s question, and I want you all to listen.” She waited…and waited…and waited. Mrs. Billings was infinitely patient.

Once we were all settled, she began what has become to me, the most important words any teacher has ever spoken to me…ever. No one has ever imparted anything of more value in all my years of learning, though a select few have communicated equally important wisdom.

She spoke calmly and with respect. She spoke like she knew we wanted to learn. She spoke clearly and boldly. We knew in the first short sentence that we could not argue. She was certain of what she was saying, and we took it as truth. Here is what she said.

“‘Can’t’ is not a word. It is a contraction. A shortcut. An excuse. It will get you no where good, and take you to all the places you do NOT want to be. It is not a valuable part of anyone’s vocabulary. All obstacles can be overcome. All problems can be solved. If you are willing, you can do all things. Therefore, “can’t” will not be used in my classroom. Do you all understand me?”

We nodded our heads like we understood. I doubt if any of us did at that moment, but we wanted so badly to please this teacher who didn’t speak to us like we were babies, but rather like we were mature and capable of understanding anything she might want to tell us. So we nodded vigorously, and I was fascinated. I, me, this awkward kid in the second column, second row (who thinks like that except a painfully awkward, “nerdy” child??)…I could do anything? If I was willing…what did that even mean? How did my willingness make any difference at all? It never had before…or had it?

Mrs. Billings continued, “If you use that so-called word in my classroom, I will unfortunately have to make you stay in from recess, so that you can write the sentence above the board 20 times for each instance. Do you understand?” We again nodded vigorously.

I began to question my life up to that point. All the nearly six years that I could remember seemed filled with circumstances, which were piled upon situations, and then smashed into life experiences, all over which I had had no control, no influence, no choice. However, after she said that, I thought carefully over those times, and realized that how I had reacted-maybe-was my choice. At least, I thought it was. I decided to ask her about it a few weeks after that first day.

“Mrs. Billings, can I choose how I react to people when they hurt my feelings or make me mad? How about if something happens that I am not able to change?” I had thought about that wording carefully. I did not want to get caught and have to do sentences!

She smiled and looked me in the eye, “Michele, if you can choose, then did they make you mad or did you choose it?” Why, oh why, do all the good teachers respond to your questions with more questions??

“But Mrs. Billings, I just can’t seem to…” I had done it! I said that contraction. Oh no! I couldn’t believe it.

She remained calm, and handing me a paper and pencil from the sentence basket on her desk, she said, “Why don’t you think about it while you write your 20 sentences.” With a smile, she silently sent me to my seat and my thoughts.

Was Mrs. Billings an idealist? Yes. Absolutely. My 3rd grade teacher  was retiring after 35 years in the public school system, in a suburban ghetto, and she was still an idealist, still overcoming obstacles. I forgot to mention that she also leaned heavily on a cane as she balanced writing with her non-dominant hand so she could keep doing what she loved. She died 3 years later of stomach cancer. She had it as she taught us that year, though none of us knew it at the time. She had been dealing with the slow-growing cancer for many years. That is some kind of special. She was amazing, and she was a Christian.

In contrast, I had another 3rd grade teacher of a different sort, though she too, had more than 30 years of teaching under her belt. Back then, we switched classes for a few subjects to get us used to a junior high schedule, and this other teacher taught us math and science. She was Mrs. Billings’ polar opposite. She said “can’t” often, to tell her students both what she “couldn’t” do and what they “couldn’t” do. She judged when she could have encouraged. Rather than believe in her students, she assumed the worst of them. She took a negative situation, and made it more so. She gave me the only “C” grades I ever received, based solely on my behavior on one bad day, rather than the class and homework of an entire quarter.

Everyday of 3rd grade, I saw the contrast of these two teachers, and when I considered who I wanted to be like when I grew up, there was no question. I wanted to be more like Mrs. Billings. The lessons she taught us that year never left me. I tried to get better and better at them every year.

So now, I teach my children (who are also my students), and those that I teach privately, to never say “can’t” because it has no real value in their vocabulary.  I teach them to reach for their goals, no matter how many times they fall down. I teach them not to make excuses, or take short cuts which contract, rather than expand their lives.

Paul emphasized Mrs. Billings’ concept in Philippians 4:13, where he wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

Just three years later, about the time Mrs. Billings fight with cancer ended, I found out I had scoliosis, and in a few more years, ended up being the worst case ever operated on in the world in 1992. I had many doctors tell me that first of all, it would fail, so they wouldn’t do the surgery. My parents took me to the world’s best surgeon, and even he wanted to use that contraction. I challenged him and won.

Then they told me I wouldn’t be able to walk normally. Within 3 months, that was checked off the list of things I might not be able to do. They told me I probably wouldn’t be able to carry a child to full term. I now have 3 awesome kids, all carried to at least full term (some of you moms know what I’m talking about here, don’t ya?) Checked that one off too.

My body started falling apart during the pregnancy with baby #3, so the potential can’ts of my life started piling up again. However, by then, I was a strong Christian myself. This verse-Philippians 4:13- it kept bouncing around my head. It slowly became a powerful proverbial river of spiritual truth, rushing through my soul, sweeping away all the doubts and selfish I-don’t-want-to’s. This verse took over my mind and my heart, and it reminded me of how, at just the right time, God placed in my life this wise lady with a mighty will. I would repeat the verse to myself, learning its concept… memorizing it…savoring it…storing it up.

I can do ALL things…oh, but God, the pain. It HURTS!

I can do all things through CHRIST…but Lord, why must I endure a life like this? I can’t hide it anymore. People are going to think of me as someone who can’t.

I CAN DO ALL things through CHRIST who strengthens… They want me to have another surgery. It could paralyze me or even worse. I want to believe you Lord. Help me with my unbelief.

I CAN DO ALL things through CHRIST who STRENGTHENS me…Here I am Lord, fill me with your strength and I will go. I will do what you ask me to do.






Oh, and friend, take a lesson from Mrs. Billings and I. So can you.

When God called me

When God called me

I woke up one night after dozing until about 2 am and thought, “I give up on sleep. It’s not worth the frustration. God, what do you want me to do with this time?”

So clearly that I could hear the sound of it bounce around my consciousness, I heard, “Write.” I was surprised it didn’t wake my peacefully sleeping husband.

Now, I have always been a writer, and graduated from college with a degree in journalism, so there is usually a notebook and writing utensil next to my bed. I picked them up. “Okay, Lord. What do you want me to write?”

Again, as clear as a bell, God spoke into my heart, “Read my word.”

Pause. “I’m sorry, Lord. Didn’t you say to write. I have a pen and my notebook. You know, the cute one that’s my favorite color and says, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your Heart’ on the cover.”

Amused silence. “Okay, I feel sheepish. I think I understand. Follow the advice on the cover of the notebook and read your word first. What should I read, Lord? Matthew? Okay, I’m reading.”

Suddenly, something lit up in me and sleep was the furthest thing from my mind. As you may know, after the lineage of Christ in Matthew, comes the Christmas story. Did I mention it was July 2?

Christmas in July sounds a bit cheesy, I know, but God was doing something. I went to bed early that night, thinking I would get some good sleep, and ease off some of the excruciating pain I dealt with everyday from childhood scoliosis, and the dilapidated surgical fusions which were daily wearing down on my nerves and muscles. I didn’t know God was going to call out to me in the middle of the night and start me on the next phase of this life he’s given me. But God knew, and after reading the Christmas story in both Matthew and Luke, I finally picked up that notebook and wrote the following:

“One day, a young woman named Mary, and her husband-to-be Joseph, entered the small town of Bethlehem. They didn’t know that on this night, Mary would give birth to their baby in a barn, and lay him on hay in a feedbox for animals. But God knew, and Jesus came.”

I had goosebumps all over, chills running up my spine, and tears streaming down my face. God was moving in me, doing something through me that was beyond my imagining, and truly even, beyond my understanding. I could visualize this moment with Mary and Joseph and feel the holiness, the preciousness of the moment. To this day, more than two years later, I don’t think I fully understand what God is going to do through this “But God Knew…” series of books, but I’m grateful he’s made me part of it.

Since that night, I have obediently kept writing, and by the grace of God, managed to pen a few books. God also drew one of my closest friends, Jennifer Huffman, whose art is featured in this blog, to illustrate them. The first book we are releasing, “But God Knew…and Jesus Called,” is actually our second book together. We’re saving that first Christmas book for later, but I am excited that this message which God shared with me that night is finally getting out in the way he wanted to tell it through us. The message that for all of his loved ones, he has always known what would happen, known the plans we had for ourselves, and had something infinitely better in mind – that message is so precious and such an honor to communicate.

That night, I began to realize that God was shaping me into a new creation. He was taking the best of what was and making it something new and better. I was beginning to see my vocational calling in Christ, and now firmly see that for the foreseeable future, God is going to ask me to read his word and write his heart.

I also hope you recognize your true identity in Christ. To borrow a line from every Veggie Tales movie ever, God made you special, and he loves you very much. He wants you to draw close to him because that is the best thing for you, and when you’re at your best, you can help others get there too. I hope the book series we’ve begun helps you get there. I pray that the social media and blog entries are an encouragement to you. Mostly though, I hope you begin to live everyday knowing that you are known by a God who really sees you and loves you…faults and all. You are known by a God who has plans to prosper you, to give you a hope and future, and it is very bright indeed.

Many blessings – Chele