Sunday, August 25, 2013

Will You Pray With Me?

This post is a simple one: I am asking you to pray with me.

Tomorrow I will be greeting 111 new students as they walk through my classroom door. Will you pray with me as I greet them with a smile?

I will be laying out my rules, regulations, and expectations for my classroom and this school year over the next week. Will you pray with me that they may see these rules as a symbol of love for them, a guideline for their safety, and a gateway to their education?

I will be learning new ways to pronounce old names and I will be attempting new names that I've never heard before. Will you pray that they may learn the name of Jesus through my kindness?

Over the course of the year, one-hundred-eleven pairs of eyes will be watching me as I instruct, as I plan, as I talk, as I walk, as I love, as I discipline. Will you pray they see Him and not me?

Per the norm of my classroom, I will build relationships with these kids, friendships with the kids, and learn about the pasts they've endured and the homes they come from. Will you pray that I can be a light of grace in the darkness? A figure of mercy? A rod of discipline that is laced with love, compassion, and kindness?

As I meet these kids and I am silently praying that I don't have one of those children, will you pray with me to remember that God knows every single hair on each of my babies' heads? Will you pray that I never forget that He has never abandoned them or me? He loves all of them...even the ones that are difficult to love.

Will you pray that when they see my feather boa and my card games, they see more than laughter? That they see the joy that Jesus can bring?

Will you pray that the days I have to get loud and I have to tell them things they don't want to hear that they will learn that it's only for their good and it's because I want the best for them and I am having to rebuke them?

Will you pray that I learn some time management skills so that I may devote myself fully to this job and not get burnt out too quickly?

Will you pray for my heart as I serve the least of these? Will you pray for The Adversary to not enter my classroom? Will you pray for Jesus to be present always in my classroom, my words, my actions?

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14

One-hundred-eleven children will fill these desks over the course of the next 180 school days. We have six units of English-Language Arts curriculum to cover, but I want the education to be about more than a textbook; I want it to be about The Word. I might not be able to say everything I wish to say to them, but I can show them...just as I pray I showed the two-hundred-fifty-two before them.

Will you hang this picture on your refrigerator and remember Mama Sandy's babies?

I encourage you to find a teacher you know and over the next week or two to encourage them. The first few weeks are hard. They're all hard, really, but the first few weeks I feel are hardest as you are learning the ropes for the year and trying to give the impression of firm but fair. Encourage them over the next year. A kind word can go a long way when you work in such a thankless job.

Pray for each of us by name. And pray for the new names that we will be learning this school year.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Never Thought I'd Be Here.

Here it is.

The eve of the first day of school.

Well, technically, the eve of the first workday of the school year.

I've had an incredible summer. I've traveled to five different states and even gotten a new stamp on my passport. I've slept in borrowed beds more than I have my own. I've fellowshipped with friends and family and made a score of new friends. I've read books, watched movies, and napped.

As glorious as this summer has been, I'm ready for a routine. I'm ready for a decorated classroom, laminated wall hangings, and a handful of meetings (but don't get crazy). I'm not so ready for 5:00 a.m. alarm bells or misplaced worksheets, but I'm ready to meet my 111 new faces that I will get to love this year.

As I keep looking forward to tomorrow and all the new adventures for this school year, that little voice in the back of my head won't shut up.

It keeps reminding me of my first year of teaching. As I move into my fourth school, my mind keeps drifting to the ones that came before it. I never stop thinking about where I've come from and all that I've been through. The kids who hold pieces of my heart. All of the lessons that I've learned -- good and bad.

The mantra that keeps resonating in my head while I'm doing all of this thinking: "God is so good. He is so, so good."

I have to remind myself that He knows exactly where I've been. He knows exactly what I've been through. He's coached me through a few hours of therapy and He found me my dream job at my dream school when every single person that I knew said, "It's not gonna happen this year." He knows the highs and the lows. The mountaintops and the valleys. He knows them, and He walked through every single one of them with me -- some of them He had to drag me by the collar just so I would keep moving. It's so easy to forget how much I've learned and focused only on how much I've hurt, but that is not the way to go about this. I rarely can believe that I'm teaching again, it always feel so surreal, but then I remember that nothing shocks my Jesus.

When I say, "I can't believe I'm teaching again," He responds with, "I always knew you would be."
When I say, "I'm scared of the what ifs and the unknowns," He responds with, "I have not given you a heart of fear -- trust Me. I've got you."
When I say, "I'm afraid to feel safe here and to open myself up again," He responds with, "We both know it's worth it; regardless of what the outcome looks like right now, it's still in My plan."
When I question, "What if no one likes me?" He retorts, "I put the lonely into families."
When I wrestle with, "What if I can't do this?" He replies...

"Little girl. No, you did not just say that. Have I given you a heart of fear? No. The power of Christ Who rose from the dead is alive and well in you. You are equipped; what you do not have now, I will provide for you. Just like I have been, just like I always will."

When I still don't listen and I say, "I'm scared. I'm scared it's going to hurt and I'm scared of the past repeating itself and I'm afraid of everything,"

He says,

"My child. I wrote in My Word 365 times to 'fear not.' Fear not, I am with you. Fear not, I will never forsake you. Fear not, you are mine. Fear not, I have called you by name. That's one fear not for every day of the year -- including the 200 you need to get through this school calendar year. Fear not. Fear not. Fear not."

Tomorrow morning as I'm shampooing my hair, I will be repeating "fear not."
Tomorrow morning as I'm driving my six minute commute to Wolf Village, I will be repeating "fear not."
As I am meeting my colleagues for the school year, I will "fear not."
When I meet my mentor and the rest of my team, I will "fear not."
When I meet my assistant principal, I will "fear not."
While I'm laminating my posters, I will "fear not."

What did it take me to get me back in the classroom? Jesus.
What will it take me to get through this school year? Jesus.

I might be shaking in my red wedges tomorrow, but my heart will be saying "fear not."

I can promise you there will be tears at some point this year.
At some point this year, I'm going to throw back an adult beverage, look my best friend in the face and say, "I am not going back tomorrow and you can't make me."
He never promised me this was going to be easy. He promised me He would see me through.

Just like He has.

I'd never thought I'd be back here -- back in the classroom, back prepping for new students, back to meeting new colleagues and getting excited and nervous of the prospect of being an educator -- but He always knew I would be.

Watch out, 2013-2014 school year. Momma Sandy is coming for YOU! :)