Contentment: Guest Blog by Pam Vaughan

Contentment…that is the word that I believed God had for me in January of 2011.  I now imagine God smiling at me and saying to Himself, “Oh, you will be content, but not at all like you think!”  The Bible says in Jeremiah 29:11“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.” I believed that then, but what I did not know, however, was just how that plan would unfold.

What I did know is that I did not want my life to be defined by the divorce I had been through in 2009-10.  I wanted people to look at me and see my faith.  I prayed that God would still use my life somehow for Him and His glory.

I can now look back at that time in my life and see God’s hand in amazing ways.  That road was the most difficult I have ever traveled.  God carried me every step.  Never could I have walked it alone.  His provision for me strengthened my faith in so many ways as He took me to peace and contentment using His word.

He also gave me provision through family and friends:  loving Christian friends provided a home for me to live in with laughter and a “soft place to land”;  other friends stepped in and did everything from calculating my taxes to fixing my vacuum cleaner; and on Saturdays, different friends would call and ask me to eat dinner or come to a ball game.  Also, my career as an elementary school teacher flourished as I was given the opportunity to teach other teachers.  God also provided a friend to exercise  with me several times a week and give  me wise council.  My dear childhood buddy gave me words from the Bible to strengthen my soul. My family loved and supported me every day.

I later found a place to move into that I called my “place of peace”.   What a Savior!  I could not have asked for more.  But then, God is not at all bound by our imaginations!  The Bible also says in 2 Corinthians 9:8 “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

I decided in April of 2011 to come home to North Carolina during my spring break at school.  My mom arranged for she and I  to attend  a monthly meeting of the women’s ministry of my home church, Ridgecrest Baptist in Durham, called “Ladies’ First Tuesday”, to hear a testimony about my friend Joan Francis, who had passed away in 2010, given by her husband Marc and their daughter Rae.  Of course, I wanted to be there.  Joan, Marc and I were longtime friends.  I loved them dearly.

After the meeting, Marc and I connected and decided to catch up on each other’s lives.  I could never have imagined what would come next! Our catching up as friends turned into dating, and dating has now turned into our coming marriage in March of 2012!

Beginning in the spring of 2011, God began to move in the most unexpected ways!  From the opportunity to move back to North Carolina and find a teaching position at a time when hiring freezes were taking effect to returning to my home church and to the family that I love, He has brought amazing blessings to me.

Neither Marc nor I would have said on the day we sat down to catch up that it would lead to our relationship today! Out of pain and sadness in each of our lives, God provided love.  I could not have even imagined that God would bless my life more than He already had in taking care of me and assuring me that He would indeed continue to use me.  My plans were so small compared to His plans!

I hope that my testimony will convey that God has unfailing love in our darkest days and gives grace beyond our understanding for difficult times.  And praise goes to Him that He blesses us beyond measure when we least expect it!

Pam was raised in Durham, NC, where she has now returned to live.  Her parents, Wayne and Adele Alford, live in nearby Hillsborough, NC. She graduated from Gardner-Webb College with a degree in elementary education and is now teaching in Durham Public Schools as a third-grade teacher. She has two young adult children, Jay and Jordan. Pam’s warmth and infectious smile endears her to all who meet her and she’s quick to give God the praise for the blessings in her life.

My Blog’s New Look

Looks like I’ll get getting the keys to my new blog site tossed to me in the next day or so! I’ve been so hepped up, I didn’t sleep much last night. I may do a future post on the whole interesting process itself . . .

However,my new blog’s inaugural post will come from Ridgecrest Church’s own Pam Vaughan, fiancee of Senior Pastor, Dr. Marc Francis. She writes about contentment and watching God provide for her, as only our Heavenly Father can do. You don’t want to miss it!

Family of God, may you see and feel the Lord’s abundant love and care for you today!

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn

Lessons From My Dog Andy

Photo by J. HuffmanWhite curly hair.  Fluffy spaniel ears.   The muscular build of a Jack Russell terrier.  And a fountain tail that spills all over his back.  This is Andy, our 6 1/2-year-old bichon frise.

A bichon frise, in plainer English, is what my husband Al calls ” a poodle on steroids.”   As you can see, his curly coat is the about only thing he has in common with his snooty French cousin.

Andy is my constant companion because he is in the truest sense of the word, a lapdog.  When I’m at work at my desk, he is at my feet.  When I’m reading in a chair, he is squeezed in beside me.  When in bed, he’s somewhere nestled against Al or me; even if it is hotter than blue blazes, that is where he must be.

A writer whose blog I follow, Cara Putnam, wrote about her dog’s influence on her a few weeks ago.  Also Scarlet Chasteen, wife of our retired pastor of 23 years Don Chasteen, shared a wonderful talk back in February entitled “What My Dog Has Taught Me About God.”  I’ve given this topic some real thought and thought I’d take a shot at it.

  • It’s good to stick close

At first I wasn’t too sure about a dog whose main idea of a good time was just to be next to me, but I’ve gotten used to it.

I have realized this is a valuable insight into how near I want to be to my loving Lord.  I should crave to be sheltered by His wing, inside His care, under His watchful eye.  Of course, the Lord is always that near to me.  The Bible says He never departs from me.  But how many times do I push away in my self-sufficiency, thinking I’ve got everything handled on my own?  I’m ashamed to say, too many.

The older I get and longer I am a child of God, the more I want to abide with Him, inside the warmth of His care, want Him to work through a surrendered me.  I get tired of seeing what I can do.  I want to become less, so He can become more.

  • It’s good to rest

Andy is a champion napper.  When I get up in the morning, his favorite place to be is snuggled in bed, next to whomever is sleeping the latest.  Whenever anyone in my house is fortunate enough to have a little down time and can steal time for a nap, he’s right there, begging to go too.  I don’t know what it is, but I think the little fellow has built-in radar to sense a person’s weariness.

Andy teaches me that I need to learn to rest better, to take advantage of those opportunities when the Lord says “Rest.”  Sometimes I get so busy in the day-to-day, I miss those chances to come away and just be.  Our bodies were not made to perform constantly without ensuing consequences.  I have to read the signals my body gives me and adjust my expectations accordingly.

  • It’s good to be content in little things

For Andy, dinnertime (at approximately 5:00 every evening, because he reminds me) is good.   He does a really good rendition of the “Snoopy happy dance.”

A red rubber ball with a squeaky tossed across the room is good.

A scratching all over, with accompanying belly rub by one of his humans, is good, too.

I am learning to be content in the little things God sends my way.  Although I will always have the joy of my salvation (thank you, G.C., for reminding me of this very truth recently), I also have contentment in blessings too numerous to count.  The blessing of my salvation and wonderful church family; of my earthly family; the basics of shelter/food/clothes; the  jobs God uses to help pay our bills; of an absolutely stunning day outside that He allows me to witness and enjoy.

Happiness is overrated and fleeting.  Contentment is the real deal and won’t change.  When I younger, I always looked forward to the next “big thing”—be it vacation, holiday, celebration, fun times.  Now that I’m older and wiser, those “big” things don’t hold a candle to the daily sprinklings of His pleasure He shows me.  He’s God.  And He’s Good, All The Time.

Would you pray with me?  Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for the flesh-and-blood lessons You put into our lives to point us up to You.  If we look hard enough, we can see Your love and pleasure written all over them. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!  May be never be bashful to share Your wonders, the amazing insights You reveal.  We love You, LORD!  Only through Jesus Christ can we come to You, Amen.

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn