Looking Up ~ Resolutions Made by an Educator

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Pertinent life resolutions seem to evade me this time of year. I am active. I eat well. My priorities are in order and I tend to my responsibilities. My life has a peaceful cadence which keeps me on my toes but happily progresses forward.

Thinking of my students though, the 25 little ones I spend day in and day out with, seems to be a different story. My teaching responsibility, one that I feel privileged to have, carries with it a sense of urgency. I feel an inward nudge towards contemplation…the time for renewal of resolve.

My little friends, each with their own unique stories, are ready to explore the world. Their young minds eager to learn. Unfortunately, so many of their stories are filled with sadness, anxiety and worry. Heartbreak and doubt seem to be prevalent and their needs are great…..

One little friend miraculously wears a smile despite witnessing a family member die at the hand of another.

I resolve to instill peace.

Another friend is different and often misunderstood.

I resolve to meet each child wherever they are, honor who they are, and let them know they are loved.

One friend rarely comes to school. He tries to hide his embarrassment as he falls behind.

My classroom will be a place where everyone is always welcome!

Another friend won’t speak. She has a magnificent mind.

I will work diligently to maintain a nurturing environment so that each of us finds our voice.

One friend, in her short 8 years, has experienced things no one should endure in their lifetime.

I will have high expectations. The circumstances some children face don’t need to define who they are in our classroom. I expect ALL children to learn because I know they can!

Another friend is eager to the point of distraction.

I resolve to honor curiosity. I resolve to celebrate every unique soul.

Every child deserves to look up proudly and realize their ability to soar. With the many burdens upon these little shoulders, I pray that my place in their life for this short moment in time is important.

I resolve that it will be!

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HOPE

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“You are lucky you have something to have HOPE in,” the homeless woman barked at my daughter. Kaleigh sat stunned for a minute, looking to me wondering what had just happened. “I think we all can have HOPE in our lives,” I mentioned softly as she stormed past.

The setting was a Starbucks right across from the beach. My daughter and I, killing time while this lady was using the cool place as a refuge for a bit. As the agitated woman hurried out, we sat stunned; rattled by the raw confession of someone with a hopeless heart.

We watched her cross to the beach, the sky exploding with glorious sunset, a stark contrast to the unrest in this woman’s soul. We headed over ourselves wanting to take a few pictures of the colorful sky, wondering if we should say something more, offering our thoughts up as a prayer.

As we took our photos, we noticed in the distance that she was setting up camp for the night. We grabbed a blanket from the car and brought it over. She accepted our offering and we sat and talked for a while. We listened as she spilled out her life story of joy and sorrow and abandonment and that gnawing lack of HOPE deep inside and the feeling that she had no purpose to live.

And inside me was that urgency, the stirring up of what is deep-rooted within, the anchor to my very core, what gives me HOPE. So I also spilled, the stories of hopeless moments of my own, the overwhelming times, and what gets me through. All the while, the waves crash over and over, as sure as there is sorrow and despair, they crash. And we talk about HOPE.

Isn’t that the challenge in this world? To feel hopeful?

In the middle of the chaos and sorrow that come just as sure as the waves hit the sand, we can be left drowning in a world that feels hopeless. The homeless. The discouraged. The left behind. The strugglers. The pain filled. The sick. The lonely. The war-torn. The oppressed. The sad. The lost. Where is the HOPE?

“….it is impossible that God would prove false, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the HOPE set before us. We have this HOPE, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.”~Hebrews 6: 18-19

The only answer there is. This HOPE is the anchor to our very soul, our purpose. When we are apart from this HOPE, we are simply floating aimlessly like a lost ship at sea or drowning in this ways of this world.

We promised to think of one another, this homeless woman, my daughter, and I. Often I find myself waking up thinking her name; praying wherever she is, she may feel anchored, more peaceful, finding refuge, seizing HOPE.

 

 

The Wonder in Teaching

 

Her mom and I were talking, lingering a bit too long outside the school doorway. My 8 year old student, her daughter, who should have been waiting impatiently due to the drawn out nature of our conversation, made not a peep. Instead, as I leaned over to thank her for the generous way she was sharing her mother’s time with me, I found her sprawled out on the pavement in true snow-angel style, despite the 80 degree temperature. She seemed to be soaking up the rays and the look on her face struck me and made me pause. She had her beautiful eyes wide open, big smile on her face, exploring the world from this unusual perspective. As her mom and I discussed how our summers ended and the news in our lives, there she lay, taking in all of the world’s wonder.

The image of my precious student has stuck with me. As the school year is now off to its swift start, familiar patterns reemerge. Routines, meetings, deadlines, committees, grades, classroom management, overwhelming feelings of responsibility. I’ve found myself stopping in the midst of it all thinking of her, being inspired by that sweet wondrous spirit uniquely found in little ones. We have so much to learn from their example! Our lives are in constant movement. We feel stressed and overwhelmed at times. We tend to experience the world with a tainted filter, dirtied with discouragement. There is so much “noise”, literally and figuratively on any given day, it’s no surprise that we crave peace and tranquility, and often a clean start.

Even though her world was moving all around her, her patience had been exhausted, and her body was weary, my student seemed to be soaring. The delight on her face said it all. In the chaos of the day, what she chose to see were trees gently swaying in the breeze like a meditation. Clouds meandering across the sky like a parade of billowy happiness against a sea of blue. Birds frolicking here and there playing the most exciting game of flight tag, their wings flapping in laughter. Airplanes, so far off in the distance, like a dream. The wonder she chose to see, instead of frustration with her circumstance inspired me.

My hope for myself and every teacher this school year is to see wonder in our world in the midst of the chaos, so that it naturally overflows into our teaching world. To choose to see the wonder in the privilege of teaching which outweighs the responsibilities. Wonder in each students’ eyes as we ignite their learning. To see wonder in our teaching moments throughout each day as fresh new opportunities for rich experiences. To see wonder in the ideas of our students, letting their passions drive our teaching. To make our own classroom communities a place where students can’t help but also see the wonder in the world!

“Students that LOVE TO LEARN have teachers that LOVE TO TEACH.”

Worship

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That special place that stirs your soul.

Simply be present here and find direction in the beauty.

The sounds are like a healing balm.

Solid rocks proclaiming their firm foundation.

A subtle mist, the omnipresent spirit lingering.

Magnificent colors, a celebration of being together.

The repetitive rhythm of it all, an unconditional promise.

Restoration. Renewal.

Run Hard with Perseverance

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I am a runner. I have heard many times, “Don’t start your race too fast or you won’t have the endurance to finish.” I have trained hard and run many half and full marathons and am always careful as the gun is fired and I begin. Will I be able to finish or set a personal record if I run fast at first? I must pace myself. My fear typically sets in and I am always cautious so that I can finish strong.

Isn’t the same true in our lives? We often face our days nervous and doubtful. Our confidence seems to sway and as we face this crazy, mixed up life, we wonder if we are truly making a difference, accomplishing our true purpose. We contemplate whether our actions matter and if God is hearing our prayers. These thoughts slow us to an unproductive, insecure crawl.

I think we all feel lost sometimes. We want direction and guidance. We tend to be impatient, mistaking discipline and seeking discernment for an inability to make decisions. We pray and look for direction but don’t understand illumination if it doesn’t make earthly sense to us.

Just as I run a foot-race that I train for, I need to remember as promised in Hebrews, that every day I am running/living the life that God has set before me. With God’s immaculate precision, my metaphorical running path has been carefully planned. I need to shed all insecurities, hold tight to the beautiful faith I have in Jesus, and REALIZE I have already won the race!

I recently felt inspired by Hebrews and put this verse to the test in my running life. I trained for a half marathon and was prepared to run a great race. I knew I was ready and ran hard from the start. I ended up setting a personal record for myself and the holy spirit ignited a spark within me.

Don’t listen to the voices telling you that you aren’t good enough to run hard in your life. Don’t allow all of that negative weight to bring you down. Approach each day with the strength that our faith in God provides. Boldly seize each day that is set before you. You are equipped to win this life-race….so give it all that you’ve got!

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“…..let us also lay aside every weight and sin that cling so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” ~Hebrews 12:1-2

Grace

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In the beauty of the mountains.

In the assurance of a heartbeat.

In the weeping.

In the weight of a smile.

In the sickness.

In the lapping of the waves.

In the broken seasons.

In the tenderness inside a hug.

In the fear of the unknown.

In the confidence.

In the chaos.

In the symphony heard in a forest.

In the heart of a child.

In desolation.

In celebration.

In the first mile and the last.

In laughter.

In the soaring of a bird.

In the days and patient years.

Your grace in every moment like the air I breath.

Life giving. Everlasting.

“My grace is sufficient for you” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

19 Years

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As I wrap up the birthday treats to send off to you at college, I think about our short lives referred to “like a sigh” in The Psalms. How true that feels to me today. Your beautiful 19 years seem like a miraculous gift so generously shared with your dad and I by The Giver of all things. What began from our hopes became sweet precious YOU in a blink of 19 years.

You filled the hallways as a newborn with your grand announcement; “I am here!”  Too new to form those words, but your cries always seemed to be more of a declaration than a cry of need. We brought you home and I remember feeling terrified, and small, and unsure. God’s grace filled every single precious moment.

With our hands, we cared for you, and held you, and loved you each and every day. In every grace filled moment, He was there loving you.

19 years of family meals. Beautiful chaos. Tough love received because you knew our love was because of His love. Incredible discussions that were teachable, life learning moments existed because we intentionally carved out and honored this time together. Now, each are like treasures, more valuable than anything money could ever buy, because they are interwoven into us, never to be taken away.

19 years of laughter. Unending games that seemed to linger for a reason, as though those brought to sit around that table needed that particular time to laugh together. Moments filled with laughter now are cherished memories.

19 years of devotion. Praying over you while you slept, for the people who would be important in your life and for the world that you were called to love. With every dreamy breath, like a sigh, I could feel the movement of time, and we prayed.

19 years of a simple life that you honored even when you longed for more. How grateful I am today that we were committed to calm, simple, God centered living even when others didn’t understand. In the simplicity, you were celebrated, your spirit grew, and your curiosity birthed knowledge that is now a wonderful part of wonderful you.

19 simple but overflowing years. Because of His grace.

These years are now a culminating foundation firm beneath your feet as you meet each new day going forward. If your Earthly parents are THIS proud and filled with an uncontainable love for you my precious babe, imagine how your Heavenly Father shines because of glorious, wonderful, 19-year-old you.

“Prosper for us the work of our hands” ~Psalms 90:17

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True Happiness

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My husband and I recently moved our family cross country, from Ohio to California. The whole process has been more painful than I anticipated; I have been grappling with the idea of happiness and contentment. Our loved ones, as well as every new person I encounter kindly want to check in, want to know if we are okay, if we are happy in our new life.

I am fighting tears each time I answer. The tears are tiny on my finger as I wipe them away, but each represent this huge mixture of emotions dwelling inside of me.

I am shocked by this brand new foreign life. I have traveled to the farthest places one can travel on this Earth, and yet, I feel shocked by how out of place I seem to be in THIS new place.

I am trying to hold it together as my teenagers put a brave face on and step into their new school that they never wanted to step into. My daughter, on the first day, gets into the car and bursts into tears wishing to be “back home”. My son tweets “I am hoping my parents will tell me this was all just a vacation and we are going back home”.  I hold it together and wonder if any of us will ever feel like THIS new place is home.

I am struggling to manage. Manage two mortgage payments, two houses in two different states requiring maintenance, telephone calls to what feels like an endless line of school departments, companies, post offices, and on and on.

I am attempting to figure out how to get through a day without being surrounded by precious little people. I miss my students that always give me so much more than I could ever give to them.

I mourn the distance now between my colleagues and I. Those special friends that every single day were joyful, sharing a common attitude and spirit….we are here because we love to help kids learn.

I am relearning that sweet patience in the privilege of parenting. I NEED to be present for my God-given children during this year of transition, surely I will meet new little friends to teach again when His time is right.

 I am reminded…….

“Happy are those that make the Lord their trust”  ~ Psalms 40:4

All of my emotions and struggles are due to the comfort I receive from the things I do, and want, and feel I need in this world. TRUE happiness, the happiness felt deep within our souls, is realized when our trust is with our all-knowing God, not in the things and people that surround us.

Life brings all kinds of changes and heartache and worry. If our happiness was based on how our children feel, or if the bills are paid, or if our job fulfills us, no one would be happy.

The great news for our world is that with intentional living and truly trusting in the one who cherishes each of us, we can know this deep-rooted happiness in the midst of the chaos and struggles in our lives.

So this is my prayer for all people tonight~  No matter how troubled we feel or unsettled we seem to be, may we have that blessed assurance that we are happy, we know that deep true happiness in the midst of our woes……..because we trust in Him!