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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Bitter and Sweet (05/28/09)

TITLE: Sweet Michael
By Coleene VanTilburg


(...an inspired devotional)
“The Chef”

"I hung out with the chef...at lunch. It was so cool! I think I want to be his T.A...Help the kids. Yeah, I am his helper."

"What did you make, Michael?"

"It was so good, meat and sauce. It is fun. I want the chef as my father because...I will always have food. It would be cool if he could be my dad...teach me to cook. He is funny, so funny..."

Matthew 6:25-26

"For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you should eat or drink; nor for your body, as to what you should put on. Is your life more than food and the body clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than that?"

When we trust our Father, He not only provides for us our physical needs, but He has a wealth of "spiritual food" for us as well. We can "hang out" with the "Chef", our Heavenly Father, and learn from His recipe book--"The Joy of Living." We can be His T.A. and be available to be a servant so that all may have a taste of His goodness. Yes, God has eternally planned our "menu" and what abundance He will provide for us. Accept the bitter with the sweet. It will always be the sweet that will linger on our palette. Rest in His Grace with a full stomach, energized to do His will. His provisions will never spoil.


The above devotional is one of many I have written after four years with my student, Michael whom I have had the privilege of assisting. Michael is a mainstreamed special Ed. Student with Down syndrome and a hearing disability. The day I started with him as his new aide would begin a four year journey that would take me both personally and professionally from one end of the emotional and spiritual spectrum to the other.

He was shy, but it did not take us long to bond. My job was to modify his assignments and communicate daily with his parents. I would also learn soon that he was extremely well-behaved, respectful and a hard worker. Fourth Period, we went to Hip-Hop dance class, where this kid’s personality burst forth.

My personal life had been in such an uproar for three years and it was continuing, but school was where I could relax, be ministered to and use my talents I was beginning to discover again. Spiritually, I was in a restoration period and God was truly showing me His love and grace through many co-workers.

In the second year with Michael, I would have another personal tragedy, loosing my son to long-suffering illness. In the three weeks I was off work, there was not a day that went by when someone from my school came over to bless us.

Michael and I experienced high school together, persevering when things were tough to understand. My love grew for this young man every day. His determination and sense of humor gave me reason to get up every morning and greet the day, despite my grief. I challenged Michael and he would challenge me. The simple things that would bring Michael such joy reminded me of how God wants us to let go of all the complications our mind tries to figure out and just trust in His Goodness; true joy.

Friday night, I watched him perform in his last Spring Dance performance. He "hip-hopped" his heart out as my own heart felt held in place by Holy hands. In a few days, Michael will be donning his graduation cap and gown and going on to new ventures and experiences. Four years have gone by like a Disneyland ride. You start off slow and uncertain of what lies ahead, you climb up the clickety track with anticipation, you plunge down to the depths of the unknown, not sure whether you will escape, but then the steady pull of an unseen force brings you back around to stable ground. In hope, I will let Michael go, in faith I will wait on God again. Whatever lies ahead though, will never touch me again in the same way these last four years have. Bittersweet? Yes, but the sweet is what will remain in my heart.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 06/04/09
Wonderful devotional, and God bless both you and Michael!
Fay Ternan06/04/09
My heart rejoiced as I saw the gift of Michael giving you affirmation and hope during such challenging life events.