By Jenna Ebener
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:1-4).
The Lord continues to amaze me. Each day, I realize more and more how he has prepared me for his will. I look back at the intense and emotional past year and see how much I have grown because of the challenges. My relationship with God is stronger than ever, which makes it that much easier to stay on the path he has laid out for me. I also have a greater appreciation for God’s daily blessings.
It is still the beginning of the school year, and yet I am looking at it in a new light. The school year began with an abnormal calm, and I immediately relished the feeling. I did not end last year on a calm note, and because of that, I appreciated this moment all the more. I find myself turning to God more often throughout the day and thanking him continuously for moments of joy and peace. Last year’s experiences instilled in me habits that make even crises a lower-stress occurrence.
I have found myself in numerous intense situations already this year. Students have been aggressive, students have been self-injurious and families have been in heartbreaking situations. When I feel so much compassion for these students and families, I find myself instinctively calling on my Father. I pray the litany of trust during lunch and I send out prayer requests. I go home after an emotional day and find myself running for my paper and pen so I can tangibly write out my day to my Father. These actions are strengthening my relationship with God. In turn, I have seen an increase in my self-contentment and a decrease in my stress over having minimal control. I am also experiencing even more love and compassion for others now that I have a better outlet for the intensity of those emotions.
While I am still continually taking steps forward and backward, each day I gather new perspective and insight. It is incredible for me to think that all of this growth began with what seemed like challenge after challenge. My appreciation for all that God does behind the scenes grows as I look at where I am at now and excitedly ponder where I will be years from now.
The Lord led me through my dark valleys and refreshed me this summer in the mountains of Colorado. He knew what I needed to be restored and made sure I received what I needed, even if it was contrary to what I originally planned. If I started to make too many plans, he canceled some; if I needed more social time with friends, something came up. God is amazing at providing direction; I just need to follow that guidance! Even though it is not all green pastures, I have no reason to fear. For the Lord is my shepherd, and he will not lead me astray.
(Editor’s note: Jenna Ebener, a graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, is a social worker at a school in Colorado for students with a combination of medical, cognitive and behavior disabilities. She relies on God every day to aid her on this wonderful, yet intense journey.)