6 Ways to Prepare for the Unexpected Test

Rachel flipped through her stack of vocabulary note cards. Tucking her legs crisscross applesauce style, she moaned, “Mom, can you email the teacher and ask what the test will be like?”

“Nope.”

“Please,” she begged.

“Rachel, I could contact the teacher but you need to know this information backwards and forwards.  If you know you will only be given a multiple choice test, you will only study to recognize the answer. You need to know this information inside and out. You need to be prepared no matter how you are tested.”

As soon as I uttered that last sentence, the Holy Spirit nudged me. I did not feel a tangible nudge, but rather a nudge in my spirit. You need to be prepared no matter how you are tested, echoed my words. Where those really my words to begin with or did the Holy Spirit plant those words in my mind to speak to Rachel? Either way, those words penetrated my soul with a deeper significance than my daughter’s upcoming vocabulary test.

Are you ready for your test?

The fact is each one of us will face a test in life. Sometimes we have ample time to prepare such as preparing to launch young adults to college or transitioning aging parents into an assisted living facility.

Other times, tests strike like a bolt of lightening leaving us blindsided and dazed. Caught off guard, these pop quizzes feel more significant. Unexpected health diagnoses, the death of a loved one, an accident, separation, or job loss are weighty pop quizzes.

You need to be prepared no matter how you are tested Click To Tweet

Pencils ready.

Unexpected tests are inevitable. The good news is God’s Word gives us detailed instruction on how to prepare for the tests and pop quizzes of life.

I am not a theologian or Bible scholar. I am a Christ follower who has survived the tests of a miscarriage, depression, a strong-willed child, betrayal, and most recently an unexpected health diagnosis resulting in an invisible chronic illness, the loss of my job and our beloved home.  I do not pretend to have all the answers but by remaining rooted in these six areas have helped me (and my family) through our tests and crisis of faith.

6 Ways to Prepare for the Unexpected Test:

  1. Seek: “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” 1 Chronicles 16:11
  2. Abide/ Remain: “Remain in me, as I remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:4
  3. Surrender: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Mark 8:35
  4. Obey: “You are my portion, Lord; I have promised to obey your words.” Psalm 119:57
  5. Trust:“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3
  6. Pray:“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

Extra Credit

If you want to dig deeper into God’s Word read the following verses for extra credit.

  1. Seek: Jeremiah 29:13, Deuteronomy 4:9, Psalm 27:4, Psalm 119:2, Isaiah 55:6, Lamentations 3:25, Hebrews 11:6, and Matthew 7:7
  2. Abide/Remain: Exodus 33:14, Psalm 92:12-15, 2 Corinthians 5:7, John 16:33, John 15:7-10
  3. Surrender: Isaiah 64:8, Psalm 37:7, Mark 10:28, Matthew 16:24-25, Galatians 2:20, Romans 12:1
  4. Obey: Luke 11:28 Psalm 119:88, 168, Ecclesiastes 8:5, Matthew 8:27, John 14:23-24, Romans 2:13
  5. Trust: Hebrews 6:19, Psalm 20:7, Isaiah 26:3, Proverbs 3:5, Psalm 37:3, Psalm 44:6-7, Jeremiah 17:7, Isaiah 26:4
  6. Pray: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Matthew 6:6-9, Matthew 5:44, Matthew 26:41, Luke 22:40, Romans 8:26

“He is a faithful God who keeps His covenant for a thousand generations.” Deuteronomy 7:9

~April Dawn White

©2017 April Dawn White, All Rights Reserved.

The Hospitality Hibiscus

The hardy hibiscus plant is a true showstopper with its dinner plate size blossoms. Unlike its tropical cousin, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, the hardy hibiscus is a perennial plant, which brings a tropical flare to a non-tropical flower garden.

As a child, my family spent many summer vacations at Myrtle Beach. It was there in coastal South Carolina, that my Mother fell in love with the hibiscus plant.

Tropical hibiscus plants are not native to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. However, after returning home from South Carolina, Dad surprised Mom with the hardy hibiscus variety. Forty-four years later, crimson, champagne pink and white blooms with a distinct red eye, add a South Carolina tropical flare to my parent’s back yard.

One day I surveyed the streets surrounding my parent’s house. I was amazed at all the hibiscus plants I observed.

“Mom, I see beautiful flowering hibiscus plants in many of the yards here. Did you have anything to do with that?”

Mom’s laugh lines deepened, her grin served as her response.

“Seriously mom, even several streets away from your house, I see hibiscus plants.”

With a glint in her eye, mom replied, “Your Dad and I share our hibiscus plants with new neighbors, old neighbors, when someone is sick, or anyone who walks by. One day, your Dad saw Miss Helen out walking and asked her is she wanted a hibiscus. Miss Helen said, “Do I want a hot biscuit?” Laughing Dad repeated,  “Do you want a hibiscus plant?”

Miss Helen received a few hibiscus plants and she and Dad still joke about having a hot biscuit.

I counted over twenty yards with the beautiful hardy hibiscus plants, gifted by my parents. Some yards have all three varieties of color.

The Bible describes the use of hospitality in three easy ways: Show, Offer, and Practice.

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Hebrews 13:2, NLT

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:9-10

Practice hospitality.  Romans 12:13

Showing, offering, and practicing hospitality are my parent’s love languages—their gifts. Mom and Dad serve as extra grandparents to the neighboring kids. Dad repairs bikes and scooters and helps to build pine wood derby cars. Meanwhile, Mom is in the kitchen, cooking a meal, restocking the cookie jar or restocking the freezer with popsicles—sharing whatever they have with others.

Show, Offer, & Practice Hospitality. Click To Tweet

Just as the tropical hibiscus plants are not native to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Kindness, hospitality, generosity, sympathy, and compassion are also no longer native to our of our culture. By replanting these diminishing character traits we can begin to replenish our communities.

My parents have lived in the same home for forty-four years. They have planted hospitality for decades and have the unique advantage to see how their hospitality has blossomed over the years. 

Sometimes we plants seeds of hospitality, seeds of kindness, seeds of compassion and we don’t remain in the area long enough to see it come to fruition. But whether we stay planted in one neighborhood for a lifetime or move frequently we can practice hospitality right where we’re planted.

How can we show, offer, and practice hospitality with those around us?

~April Dawn White  © 2017 All Rights Reserved

Red Chair Moments, on location at my parents’ house.

Celebrate Grunt Work

This week we are eating cake—chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting.

<Gasp> Yes, I said peanut butter. Although taboo in public settings, (due to allergy concerns) peanut butter is a staple in our home and the kids L-O-V-E my homemade peanut butter frosting.

This week we are celebrating the completion of one of my long-range goals: Completing a manuscript and book proposal.

The idea of co-authoring a book began with a conversation with my friend Marilyn Nutter.  Long before we met in person, we met online and respected each other’s writing style. During a writers’ conference, we exchanged ideas over coffee and tea in the comfortable mountain lobby. The more we prayed about the idea, the more similarities God brought to our attention.

Marilyn and I understand grief and stress that accompany a primary loss.  Marilyn’s, primary loss was the unexpected sudden death of her husband and best friend. My primary loss was the rare genetic disorder, Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis, that hijacked by body in my early forties.

Once Marilyn and I committed to this new endeavor, our days filled with writing, research, editing, and learning the writing craft. Over the next seven to nine months, we would write, edit, and rewrite.

This week, Marilyn and I celebrated these five words: Manuscript complete. Book proposal sent. Marilyn and I live states away; therefore, we were unable to celebrate together. She celebrated with ice cream and I celebrated with cake and a tall glass of milk.

Marilyn and I know that completing the manuscript and sending off the proposal is only the first of several steps in the publication process.  But we are celebrating the grunt work.

In our American culture, we tend to celebrate the triumphant beginnings.

We celebrate the grand finale.  

Do we celebrate the hours of required grunt work?

No.

We fail to celebrate the difficult steps.

Perhaps we fail to celebrate each step between the triumphant start and grand finale because those steps are not glamorous; those steps are tedious and monotonous grunt work.

This week we celebrate grunt work! Click To Tweet

Grunt work is not sexy, but is a necessary part of any process.  Whether you are power washing your house, spray painting patio furniture, saying ‘no’ to the extra serving of macaroni and cheese, or biting your tongue from lashing back at your teen, celebrate the grunt work.

What long-range goals do you have?  How will you celebrate the grunt work?

~April Dawn White

©2017 April Dawn White, All Rights Reserved.

16 Character Traits of God in Psalm 145

Restless, I wandered room to room searching for a place of solitude—finding none. The house was bustling with activity. Dash, the rescue kitty, sneaked a peek at our two Jack Russell terriers. A symphony of chaos erupted when Guinness and Kinsey saw the cat.

“Take the dogs out! The barking is driving me crazy!” I commanded.

 

Heavy footfalls of five grandkids, ranging in age from ten to nineteen, stomped through the house to tend to the barking dogs and a barking Mama.

“Lord help!” I pray.

Opening my Bible, the Lord answered my plea for help with praise from David in Psalm 145. As I studied God’s Word, I underlined each attribute of God contained in this passage. My heart swelled as I read of God’s goodness and His compassion and active care for His children.

In between the barking dogs and kid chaos, God met me and provided the solitude my soul craved. From the ancient Psalm of David God reminded me of these attributes of Himself:

Great

Worthy of Praise

Majestic

Unfathomable Greatness

Gracious

Compassionate

Slow to anger

Rich in love

Faithful to all this promises

Upholds the fallen

Lifts the oppressed

Satisfies with His open hand

Fulfills desires of those who fear Him

Hears our cry

Saves us

Watches, preserves, and guards all who love Him.

God also taught me we cannot control our circumstances, but we can control our response and the direction of our praise.

How does reading these attributes of God change the outlook of your current situation?

“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalm 145:18)

~April Dawn White

©2017 All rights reserved

Psalm 23 for Chronic Illness

Psalm 23 for Chronic IllnessPsalm 23 for Chronic Illness

Hello friends,

As our family prepares for another grand detour, I seek comfort in these familiar words, “He leads me in the path of righteousness for His namesake” (Psalm 23:3). Today’s blog post is straight from my journal— my heart-felt response to each line to this famous Psalm.  I hope it brings comfort to you.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

God is my shepherd and guide, He will provide for my every need.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

God forces me to rest while the world scurries around.

He leads me beside still waters.

God provides a serene backdrop while quenching my thirsty soul with peace.

He restores my soul;

I surrender my daily chronic pain to my Shepherd. As I listen to my Shepherd’s voice and seek rest in Him, my soul is restored by the promises found in His Word.

Psalm 23 for Chronic Illness

He leads me in the path of righteousness for His namesake.

My Lord and Shepherd knows my final destination. He has carved out a new path through the desert of physical pain, financial loss, and emotional toil. Even through I cannot see the outcome of my illness, I trust my Shepherd to guide me along the narrow and traitorous paths. Detours upon detours, I trust my Guide remembering to walk by faith not by sight.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

The dark valley of chronic illness lurks with pain, regret, grief, and loss (of my career, identity, and friends who don’t know who to respond to my illness.)

I will fear no evil; for You are with me;

You promise to “never leave me nor forsake me” (Hebrews 13:5) and in Isaiah you claim me “You are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 

You fight off the Enemy and You drag me away from the Enemies traps to doubt your love, trust, and provision.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; 

You prepare a banquet feast and I am surrounded by joy, hope, faith, mercy, provision, and compassion. The Enemy prowls around my table, waiting for an empty spot at my table, but I refuse to rise from God’s banquet table.  I lean back, praising God for His goodness to me during this difficult time and discover…

You anoint my head with oil;

Liquid blessing drips down my face symbolizing I have been hand chosen by God for this assignment to tell of all His good deeds.


My cup runs over.

As I keep my eyes on You and listen to Your voice, I am continually filled to overflowing with hope, joy, compassion, faith, mercy, and Your provision. I am amply supplied and I can share with others from my excess.


Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life;

Goodness and mercy follow me like a spiritual shadow reminding me I am never alone from God’s presence.


And I will dwell
in the house of the Lord Forever.

When my assignment on earth is complete, I will forever rest in heaven. My chronically ill body will be replaced by a disease free me, full of vitality and praise. Until then, I will seek God’s chronic presence amidst my chronic illness.  Amen.

~April Dawn White © 2017

Psalm 23 NKJV

Life is Hard, but God is Good

Is God good?

I don’t know what prompted my husband to ask the question. It was an ordinary day. We were zooming down the road to Rachel’s (aka Pop Fly) softball game. Shifting into fifth gear, my husband turned toward the backseat and asked, “Is God Good?”

Rachel, our twelve-year-old, immediately answered, “Yes.”

Non-verbal sounds emanated from Andrew’s throat with a not-no-sure moan.

Chris asked again, “Andrew, Is God good?”

“Well….um…” He began.

Panic raced through my veins. Have I failed as a mother? I wonder.  I pray, “Lord, why isn’t he answering this question? Lord, help him to know the truth.”

“It’s just that…” He continued struggling to form his thoughts.

Memories flash through my mind of all the bedtime prayers, family devotions, long discussions about hard topics, vacation Bible schools, and even private Christian school. Yet my fourteen-year-old son struggles with this three-word question.

Sighing, Andrew spoke, “God is good, it’s just that life is hard right now.”

Continuing he said, “Mom has an illness and is unable to work. Dad has all the weight on him right now. I broke my ankle and we need to sell our house.”

Keeping his eyes on the road, Chris nodded, “You’re right Andrew, God is good and life is hard right now.”

Turing to look at him in the back seat, “Andrew, both of those statements are true. The reality of our current situation does not change the fact that God is good.”

I realized the delay in Andrew’s response was not due to a lack of knowledge, but rather a crisis of faith. Deep down he knew the right answer taught by his parents, the church, and even his school. However, his teenage brain had developed deeper thought processes. Truth and reality wrestled in his mind.

Life is Hard, but God is Good. Click To Tweet

There will come a time in everyone’s life when there is a crisis of faith.Surrounded on every side Truth and reality will wrestle in our minds.  Which one will win? Much of the outcome depends on our perception of God. Do you perceive God as good? If you struggle in this area, try this this exercise in faith: for one-week jot down everything, you are thankful. Big or small, write them down and give God praise for His faithful provision.

© 2017 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

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