Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks

 

Laura Ackley has been a friend of ours for almost a decade. She is one of those women you admire and strive to be even just a little bit like. I know very few people with her passion to know Jesus and help others know him in return. I’ve asked her to tell us a bit about her experience teaching and how Jesus met her in the midst of work life. It is my hope we all glean a little of her passion, joy and gratitude for the Father’s love today after reading. May you be encouraged and strengthened as you go about your work week seeking God. –Rachel & Craig Denison

 

Right when I needed Him most, Jesus captivated my heart. His great love overflows and shows up in my life as passion for people of all ages. My heart and passion is to help people understand the Love by which they are loved, the purpose they embody, and the worth they possess. It was this passion that caused me to pursue a career in educating children in the public school system. I taught Kindergarten for four years and first grade for one year. Throughout my time teaching, I faced many struggles. Honestly, teaching was the hardest thing I had ever done, and I spent much of my first year in tears. With that being said, the most challenging experiences are often the most rewarding. Through actively being the hands and feet of Jesus in the public school system, I learned how to live out Paul’s encouragement below:

“Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances.”

– 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

As I began my teaching career, this verse hadn’t taken root in my heart. While paperwork piled on my desk and children were acting out, I certainty wasn’t walking in a reality of rejoicing and giving thanks. Staying connected to Jesus through prayer seemed impossible with the constant demands that pulled my thoughts in many different directions. The Holy Spirit was faithful to bring this verse to my mind whenever I cried out in my anxiousness for help as tasks and challenges weighed me down in the deepest parts of my soul.

In those difficult moments, Jesus, in his infinite faithfulness, taught me to retrain my mind to see the good in all people and all circumstances.  As I began to dwell on the frustrating aspects of my job, the still, soft voice of Jesus called me back to His perspective: trials are meant for growth, people have gold within, and there are always reasons to rejoice. Truly, taking every thought captive was the only means through which I learned to “rejoice always.”

As a teacher, I did not have the luxury of down time– so I questioned how I was supposed to pray continually while at work and still do a fabulous job teaching rigorous, differentiated, and engaging lessons (all while mediating an argument, completing attendance, and answering the phone)?

Jesus broke down the religious idea within my mind that I had to set aside a specific time to pray and reminded me that I could pray as I passed out supplies during a single exhale, as I walked down the hallway, and invite him into every aspect of the day. When I learned to press in every moment, he blessed me with his peace, perspective, and encouragement when I needed it most. A prayer as simple as, “Jesus, send your peace,” was all that was needed in a moment of chaos.

When Jesus died as the for our sins, a marvelous thing happened… God tore the veil that separated man from the tangible presence of God. We have been given the gift of constant intimacy. All it takes is simply reaching out to him in those moments. His presence is with us everywhere­– no matter where you spend your days.

When I found myself feeling bitter or frustrated regarding a situation at work, the Holy Spirit taught me how to ask God to show me his perspective in the present moment. His gentle reminder to be thankful in all circumstances shifted my eyes to see he is for us, he is on his throne, and he sees the big picture, even on the toughest of days.

God wouldn’t have encouraged us to rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances if those goals were unattainable. Every moment is from him; and his heart desires to be included in all moments. Take advantage of this moment, even now. Center your heart. Turn your gaze upward. Whisper his name. Can you feel him? He is with you, even if you can’t. Begin to thank the Lord for his blessings, for his constant presence, and let him in. How can you continue practice this in the work week ahead? How can you inwardly pause to rejoice, pray and give him thanks? You may be surprised at how it shifts your day, and fills you back up to keep going even in those hard times. May he meet you whenever you’re at.

 

Laura Ackley | Laura lives in Blooming Grove, TX with her husband, Scott. Together, they have two young children, Kylie and Levi. She has devoted her life to following and serving Jesus. She got her Bachelors degree from Dallas Baptist University in 2013. Upon graduation, she became a certified elementary educator with an additional ESL certification. She has worked within a public school for five years as a first grade and kindergarten teacher. She is currently pursuing her Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction while staying home with her children. She enjoys leading worship, volunteering with the local youth group, and teaching Sunday School.