The Lord is my shepherd
I know His call
For when I was young
He became my ALL
Providing me still pastures when I’ve needed rest
Bringing me to quiet waters, my soul restored the best
Whenever I’ve ever felt alone
His Spirit has guided my way
And through every dark valley
His hope within me has stayed
When I’ve felt like I could break
He’s comforted, loved and held me
Even when enemies were on the attack
He nourished and He blessed me
For His goodness and His love have followed all my days
And one day, I’ll be fully with Him forever and always
But till that day comes, He’s always been near
Till that day comes, He shows me that He’s here
When a pandemic tried to seriously crush my soul
When isolation and loss seemed to take control
Hope still reigned in the songs sung
Hope still reigned with every beautiful rise of the sun
Hope still reigned when justice marched
Hope still reigned as humanity battled on
No matter what’s happened or what will come
I will cling to His promises, every single one.
As a proud citizen of this nation, especially having lived in the NYC metro area during 9/11 and then seeing what occurred at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, I have so many feelings and thoughts.
I am angered that people like those who caused the rioting insurrection were able to even get that close to the Capitol, let alone within it.
I am completely disappointed that law and order wasn’t in place far sooner in a manner that would have prevented what happened.
I am saddened by the deaths and huge amounts of those severely injured.
I am still aghast that those who represent our states on one of the most important days had to fear for their lives and go through all they did.
I am at a loss that in a time when our nation has endured so much and still has so much fear related to COVID-19 that a human who’s supposed to lead this nation that stands for democracy has instilled such additional levels of fear on top of the flames of all of his insane rhetoric on a worldwide stage.
While this nation won’t ever forget the act of insurrection on January 6, 2021, I will also fondly remember . . .
The power of people who worked together for the better good.
The day when Georgia’s senatorial race made major history on Tuesday, January 5, 2021.
- Reverend Raphael Warnock became Georgia’s first African American senator who is the pastor of the church founded by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rev. Martin Luther King Sr.
- Jon Ossoff became Georgia’s first Jewish person elected as senator.
- Together they changed a strong red state with the help of many people of that state to a blue one.
When our nation’s government officials didn’t fail democracy on January 6th, to make sure that law and order, that the ways of our democracy would prevail before they left the building that hours before had brought many of them terror.
When social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) took away the current president’s ability to worsen an already terrible barrage towards violence, at least through those mediums.
When Twitter stated on January 8, 2021 would permanently ban this president from ever having an account again. Perhaps this will lead to others getting the same ban due to the extreme harm done against humanity.
I will also remember discussing what occurred at the Capitol on January 7th with my middle school students, because what they knew, how they thought and felt about the insurrection and how democracy still prevailed afterwards, instilled in me an even deeper hope in he future of our nation.
I know that generations caused a lot of harm in our nation, but along those paths, we have begun seeing tremendous amounts of evidence that the tide is turning and a better sun rising in more ways than one.
I choose to not let all of the horrific acts reign stronger, but rather be a stark contrast to what all the good that is rising up in phenomenal ways towards a more perfect nation. No land is perfect, but I can see a better one across the horizon.
Today was a GREAT day as a teacher. I had class discussions with groups in every hour of my day today about what happened yesterday at the Capitol. I allowed those who wanted to discuss or learn through the discussion to stay with me in the main part. The others who wanted to get work done were allowed to go to their own breakout sessions.
These 12-14 year olds continue to inspire me about what the younger generation will do to bring about more good into the world. They were articulate and able to explain with facts and reasoning. They are so very aware of far more and are not only thinking deeply about all they see, hear and witness. The passion in their voices and faces was something you could feel inside.
Some teared up openly, being moved by what they were feeling and seeing, but trusting us all to witness it. Middle school kids. I saw people understanding one another. I saw people being real. I saw students who joined with the intent simply to watch and listen, and then join the conversation. When I talked with them about the importance of them continuing talks like this with their families, friends and whoever they can, they made it clear to me that they would.
They are so clearly disappointed in so many adults who exist now and in years past who refused to see so much of the wrongs that have been done and are still doing. They want and plan to do better. To hear how many have already chosen to get involved with other causes on behalf of those like them and those not like them, because they’re human beings and not because they were made to is POWERFUL!!!
Then, in one of my final hours of the day, as I explained what they could discuss with me today if they desired, one of my middle school boys who is normally quite shy said the most amazing thing to me in the chat of our remote learning forum. He said, “I really appreciate how you always create such a safe environment for us. Thank you.” I told him how much that meant to me and asked, “Are you able to explain what you mean by that?”
Then he answered the best response. He said, “Well, you understand us middle school kids. We feel awkward all the time. I don’t even know how to really explain, because you know, it’s awkward. All I know is that you make us all feel less awkward.”
To top it off, this very shy boy then chose to join the conversation and keep his camera on. He didn’t speak, but his face spoke volumes.
THIS IS WHY I ABSOLUTELY LOVE TEACHING, in spite of this horrible year. For my students allowing me in like they do, whether in remote or in hybrid while also going through so much, inspires me to pick myself up and keep doing what I do.
What we educators do each day, in and outside of school, matters to so many generations. That’s a gift I will never take for granted, and knowing how many of my former students over these past 24 years have gotten in touch with me and keep me in their world, reminds me to never forget my WHY. When yesterday one of my early years of teaching middle school kids shared a post of how she feels as a black woman who is now a doctor making a difference in her own right, I told her how very proud I am of her. Even so many years later, they still appreciate knowing that their educators still care about them.
The more humane we can make this world, no matter what we do, is what we all should aspire to do. The kids are counting on us.
So many are looking for 2021 to help us heal from what’s happened in 2020. Deaths of loved ones. Isolation. Lockdowns. Normal education having so many shifts. Fears in various forms. Faith and hope shaken up. Places shut down. Shortages and hoarding. Events cancelled. Places of worship shutting doors for weeks and months on end. Political unrest in ways never seen before. Racism and prejudices becoming harder to ignore. Loss of jobs, food, homes, relationships, and the list goes on and on.
I get it. I have faced a lot of that myself, as I’m sure you have, too.
There’s not a single human who can rescue us. God does all He can for us, yet we humans don’t make it easy. We never have.
We want life to get back to normal, while much of what was normal needed changing. Normal doesn’t exist.
We want masks gone. Not seeing full faces is not in our nature.
We want to hug and touch others. Humans crave connections.
We want to be there for our loved ones in the hospital or in adult care facilities. Going through hard times alone is not what we were meant to endure.
We want to gather with others for weddings, births, funerals and celebrations. Life milestones are important.
We want some sense of predictability we can rely on, after all of this. Yet, when was life ever predictable?
2021 will not erase the past and it will not entirely fix the world. However, each of us can do our parts and be the change this nation and world needs, be truly selfless and the best versions of who we each are meant to be in the time we have on this planet.
We can each make the differences that are needed, making life easier for all. Each of us have purpose and it is those purposes within us that are parts of so many solutions. There is much to be changed, no doubt.
However, if we truly consider our fellow humans and other living creatures that inhabit the land, sea and skies, as well as the planet itself and our Creator, life in 2021 can be the turning point that can finally get us all on the right path.
By truly choosing to see others as humans who have their own burdens, we can have more compassion.
By truly listening to understand, rather than to have our say, we can have more empathy.
By giving of the resources we have to those in need, we can heal.
By trusting those who have proven themselves worthy and by giving the benefit of the doubt to others till shown otherwise, we can have more respect for others.
By seeking truth and not just trying to confirm our own conceptions, we can have better discernment.
By doing all we can, by valuing the lives of other, we can have more unity.
While we head into 2021 in a matter of hours, reflect on what you have learned during this past year. Reflect on the good moments, because they also happened even if some were different than prior years, and learn from the bad ones.
While no year can fix so much, we can shift the trajectory too many of us have been on and begin moving into brighter days, weeks, months and years. We can leave a better legacy for those who come after us, rather than leaving behind more heartache.
May we all see the pandemic end or at least lessen to a huge degree soon.
May we give, love, laugh, and enjoy one another more than ever before.
Let’s make 2021 the year we all begin to heal and help others to heal, because we seek to make our lives and those all around us the best examples of ourselves that we all need. When we are each on the other side of Heaven, may we truly do so knowing that we were “good and faithful servants” to all.
Healing comes in many ways. Seek and you shall find.
During these pandemic times, it is easy to focus on all of the negative aspects of life. However, with Thanksgiving less than a week away, it’s normally a time when we stop and think of what and who we are thankful for, in our lives. Now, more than ever, this is needed on a more regular basis.
I’d like to tell you some parts of my story. While many believe in certain miracles, there are those who don’t believe a miracle can happen in their own lives. For that matter, there are those that try to explain miracles away.
However, I am a walking miracle.
At the age of 12, I began having severe allergies and asthma out of the blue, it seemed. It all began as I was walking home from school with a friend of mine. Towards the start, my breathing became labored and only got worse as we walked the mile to my home. By the time we arrived, she had been holding me up to help me continue on and I collapsed into the entrance and onto the floor, as my mom opened the door. Within a short time, I was in my doctor’s office getting injections immediately, as they treated me and having confirmed what was happening.
Within a year of that same time, I also received confirmation that I had scoliosis. After finding a specialist, I was able to see that my spine was a perfect backwards S, which now made all of my back pains make sense. The pain was often horrendous and limited certain movements, as well.
Having severe allergies and asthma limited me from being around certain animals and various types of environments. I couldn’t exercise very much, as it too would exacerbate the asthma. I had to avoid any part of stores with strong smells, especially the lower levels of department stores with all the perfume and cologne scents. Being even on the farther side of those floors would trigger my lungs to spasm or get worse. From middle school through adulthood, I had specialists for my back, as well as for the allergies and asthma.
Over time, I just learned to adjust and tolerate the back pains, no matter how bad they got. As for the asthma, I hated how often it debilitated me from doing ordinary things and struggling to breathe through what felt like an airway the size of maybe a coffee stirrer straw.
Then, the miracles.
In 2000, I was at church. The pastor was up front praying and so were all of us. Eyes were closed and many of us were standing. I was in my pew, next to my husband. Suddenly, I hear God clearly say to me, “I know you’re in pain, and I know you have had others pray for you, but have you ever asked me to heal you?” Incredulously, I realized I never had asked him for this, though I had believed in the power of prayer since my earliest of years.
So I prayed. Then, the miracle happened, as I heard clicking sounds within me as my spine realigned and felt my body jolt with the transition. With everyone’s eyes closed in prayer, no one appeared to have noticed, but I began praising God as tears came down my face.
I had my husband, other family members and close friends touch my spine once the church service was over so they could realize this great miracle. There was no doubt that God had done what I explained to them. Glory, Hallelujah!
As for the allergies and asthma, they continued. I had gotten used to seeing a specialist regularly and all I had to use to manage. I have always loved singing and while I managed being on worship teams at various churches in my life, it never occurred to me how much of a miracle my strong singing capabilities were, with the asthma as severe as it was.
I always chalked that up to various exercises I started and continued doing on a regular basis to maintain as much breathing capacity as possible every day, and most especially so I can continue singing. Little did I know what a great miracle it was to sing as bad as the asthma was.
Over time, I had accepted the fact, based on what specialists had told me that I would like not be able to have a child without dying in the process and most definitely without alert them should a pregnancy ever happen in my future. There had been so many complications within my body, from everything that there was little chance of me surviving something like that.
Through the years, I had even had several times when I nearly died. The worst occurred while I was at work. A situation occurred that caused the asthma to go into overdrive. Paramedics came, and I knew it was the worse situation I had yet to experience, since there were so many of them and so much they were doing to me.
One of those paramedics was the father of two of my former students who after my recovery, came to visit me, because something had been gnawing at him since that day. How was I still alive? I looked at him and asked, “What do you mean?”
That’s when I learned that with everything that was hooked up and connected to me, I should have died either at my place of work, on the way or surely by the time I got to the hospital. Every indicator showed that I had zero percent oxygen in my system and my body was shutting down.
Yet, I remained conscious, even making the get me paper and pen to communicate with them, so my things could be gotten for me and whoever ended up teaching my students would know what to do. He said that’s why we all seemed so incredulous that day, as well as quite scared.
All, I can say is that God performed another miracle that day. Little did I know there was a greater one to come years later.
On April 7, 2013 God healed me completely of my major allergies and fully healed me from asthma. By that point in my life, I was on several medications for the allergies, plus several inhalers for the asthma, along with an epipen. These went with me everywhere I went. I always needed people to know where these things were, in case of emergencies, because emergencies happened often enough to warrant it.
So on that day in 2013, God chose to do another miracle. From that day onward, I have only needed an over the counter help for minor allergies. All other allergies were gone and never returned. The asthma was a complete thing of the past.
No more specialists. No more multiple medications, inhalers, injections, nor any need for the epipen. In fact, I was given an opportunity once to get an x-ray of my back, to see what it looked like years after my spine realigned. To see my spine fully straight wasn’t necessary for me, but it was wonderful to see. The only signs of it was a minuscule curve at the base and the fact that though my growth plates had already closed when the scoliosis had been confirmed, the miracle also gave me more height.
Since those miraculous moment, I have been able to be more active. I can be around animals, grass being mowed near me without having to isolate myself, walking in any place I choose, being near trees of all types. I’ve had so many opportunities open up for me, with the results of those miracles.
These parts of my life are just part of what I have personally experienced in my life, and I thank Almighty God, my Savior Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit for every bit of what I know are miracles.
You may be thinking that I must have been granted miracles in my life, because of who I am. Trust me when I say that’s not the case. God performs miracles, because of who He is.
God loves and wants us to know Him, no matter who we are. While He performs miracle each day, many don’t notice them for what they are, some try to explain them away, but if you really think about the details of what occurred, there’s only one answer: a miracle.
Check out the YouVersion Bible app or open your Bible if you have one, and see all of the miracles God has already done. Those people lived. Even those who don’t claim Jesus for who He is, once recorded much of the miraculous events that occurred.
If you are reading this, you too are a “living, breathing, walking miracle,” as written and sung by singer Matthew West in the video below. Listen to what happened to this young boy and others, and listen to the truth of this song. What have you got to lose?
Isn’t it time to start dwelling on the good in our lives? With God, there is hope. True hope. There is good in the world.
Still feeling skeptical? Please take a listen to Colton Dixon’s song “Miracles” which also came out this year. I don’t believe in coincidences. But, I do believe in miracles. In this song, you’ll hear from a believer, who also finds himself in awe every time God does miracles.
I would love to hear about your miracles. It’s great to read about those done for others. This Thanksgiving season and as we continue living through these times, know that you are here for a reason. You are here with purpose. A good purpose.
If you ever want to know more about this God of miracles, I would love to tell you more. He loves you no matter who you are, what you’ve done or what you think of yourself. He doesn’t want to change your world upside down. He simply wants to show you how much more there is for you. Trust me when I say that there is far more to my story, and I know without a doubt that He lives, that He is real and that He is trustworthy.
While there is much in life we cannot control. He can.
Last spring, schools across the nation went remote. Not enough time to prepare. Everyone in shock from the pandemic.
What helped my school? Our culture. The environment that had been established way before life changed.
When life has ups and downs, the culture helps people to rise or fall.
Nothing was as good as it should have been. Not enough was known about much of anything, and I’m not just talking about education. A crisis of massive proportions arose across the globe, and we functioned as best we could.
Our principals and leadership met with groups of staff each week, so we stayed connected, made decisions and processed together and cared about one another. Culture.
Teachers taught, but we spent a lot of time having conversations with our students through video meetings, emails and phone calls. Culture.
Whether students or staff, we knew we could rely on one another. We knew to supply grace to each other. We knew we were a community and the culture helped us feel like not all was lost.
What said even more were families and students sending staff emails. They encouraged us. They asked if we were okay. They shared what we meant to them.
They supplied light back, because of the light we provided in darker times. A culture like that creates a safe place to function, no matter what.
Now, in a matter of days, our students will start the new school year. It most definitely will not be what it used to be, except for our culture.
Knowing that the cornerstone of our school is a community of learning while also teaching to the whole child, every child, we’ve been learning. Through the summer. Through extra professional development. Through our own feelings of what if what we’ve always known to do and what we’ve learned isn’t enough. Because our culture means we go above and beyond, always, because our students and their families matter. Details matter.
The pandemic hasn’t gone away. It’s why we changed from students either being remote or hybrid to all going remote to start. Culture we can still maintain, but without safety, it’s hard to learn and grow.
A school cannot have a culture that could take us through a pandemic time, without the right leadership. Principals who have led us with grace, understanding, realness and wisdom, even as they’ve made changes and admitted some of their own struggles through this process.
They’ve given us leadership roles to not only delegate, but to show their faith in us, even now.
They’ve given us time and shifted their original plans, so we could grow, but not break.
They had us make videos of ourselves so this year’s students and families can see us, hear us, and know how much we can’t wait to teach and to also support them all.
Even more powerful than all of that was having us email and call the families of those students who we will be with at the start of each day. We let them know what to expect so they’re not feeling nervous for the first day and beyond, for the students and their parents. To answer questions. But most of all, to help let out a breath, knowing we care enough to call and be there for them even before we have met their children. Culture.
On my end, I adored talking to students who were excited to hear from me. I realized how much I missed hearing the awkwardness of being the age of middle school kids. I soared when parents shared how happy they were to receive my call, how much better they felt and how supported they felt. But, what made my teacher heart fill to completion was getting emails from several of my new students asking me questions they had and then thanking me for my help.
CULTURE! We haven’t even started our first day together, but our culture’s base has already been laid down.
Our school’s vision is to engage, empower and excite our students to grow and learn. Without a building, through emails, calls and soon via video conferencing and other online tools, they will thrive. They will learn. They will feel supported.
And we will be their school community, doing what we know is best for them. Content, we already knew. Learning new ways to engage, empower and excite our 2020-2021 students is simply a part of being educators. What more we may need to move forward? Well, we will grow together, stronger and our culture will be even better than it’s ever been, no matter what life throws our way.
Dedicated to Blake Revelle, Tara Mahoney and our Amazing Knights Community. Love working with all of you!
Teachers do what we do, to make a difference.
Before I ever stepped foot in a school, my mom had already taught me the basics of how to read and write, among other useful life skills. She was amazing at what she did with me, as I discovered that her actions set me up for a love of learning and started me off, advanced for my age. Though she wasn’t an educator, she was to me. What my mother did in my life, in those young formative years, still impacts me and all of my students, to this day.
Through those experiences, I remember being a child, prepping my dolls, stuffed animals and my little sister for my favorite game of playing school. I would include books, paper, pencils and crayons to teach my sibling. At some point, an adult gave me an abacus, which fascinated me, and I added that to the learning process. Later, I would buy textbooks at garage sales to make my “classroom” more official.
My sister was my only human student during those times, and as I taught, I was enchanted by how she reacted. Her eyes would light up. She would look at me attentively and smile her big smile, especially as I encouraged her in her “lessons”. At first, it was truly a game. In time, as I saw that she was learning and grasping, the play time became a passion.
Then, during high school as I was talking with my father about what I wanted to do when I got into college, I told him emphatically that I was going to be a teacher. This turned into many conversations of other careers he tried to persuade me towards, as a way to earn more money than teachers make.
I told him, “Sure, I can choose those careers, but I cannot imagine not teaching. Yeah, the pay is far less than teachers deserve, but I want my life to make me happy and to make a difference. I know that money is important to live, but God has a way of making things work out when you do what you are meant to do, and I am meant to teach.”
Do I wish we were paid what we are worth, when what we do allows younger humans to be the next world changers? YES.
But, helping to create world changers and sending them forth is a gift that pays in ways most may never understand.
Teachers do what we do, to inspire.
After over twenty years of teaching, I still love what I do, very much. I know that I make a difference. Each year I have roughly 150 to 180ish students. To this day, that look on their faces when they “get it” and finally realize what they can do, when they trust themselves, when they realize they are already world changers who can continue on to make a difference, it still fills me with joy.
When a student gets ready to move on to the next grade, knowing what they want to be because of their experiences with me as their teacher, is worth far more than the money I get paid. As moments happen throughout the school year and they share their words or tokens of gratitude as a way to say, “Thank you! You were right. I am ________, and I’m so glad you believed in me,” it’s a humbling gift.
Whether we have these students for one year or more, they each become part of my “kids”. As they get older, they’ll stop by to visit from time to time. Later, as they have grown up into these amazing adults, they often reach out to me through social media to reconnect.
THEY INSPIRE ME. It is why teachers have a hard time not giving so much of ourselves, because every one of those humans’ lives are worth it.
Teachers do what we do, to help others be their best selves.
As I share a short period of my students’ lives with them, helping them to be the best people they can be, I know that some grew a little, some grew a good amount and some grew in leaps and bounds. They don’t all display it in the same way, but teachers become pretty good at reading each individual to see the signs of how far they have come.
We are forever grateful for the parents who do all they can to raise their kids and partner with their schools, so their children can thrive. We are thrilled when we have administrators and/or support staff of all kinds who are doing what they do, because of the kids. We are happy when we are shown that what we do and think matters.
This is why, during this pandemic, educators shifted gears drastically to educate and help our students during a very stressful time, as best we could. We appreciated hearing so much, by emails and social media that we don’t get what we deserve after parents realized how their kids can be when with them for longer periods of time and when they saw what they knew only we could do, like we do.
Now, as the time comes near for school to begin, it’s troubling when leaders don’t say the words or do what is right for the sake of students’, school staffs’ and our families’ lives.
You see? While we may not have even met our next group of students, we already care about them, like a parent waiting for their unborn child. We also care about our own families, even more deeply. To not even consider protecting any of them from the coronavirus is indefensible, but to not consider protecting us well enough means also hurting them.
Imagine a world without teachers.
For you see, “Teaching has transformed from a simple educational function into a complex profession. Teaching develops the minds of children and young adults, and prepares them to become worthwhile citizens of society. The history of teaching can be traced to Confucius (561 B.C.), who was the first famous private teacher. Many ancient Greeks hired private teachers to educate their children. In the Middle Ages, learning institutions such as Cambridge University were founded and teacher training became required.”
Beyond the time educators take to get their yearly professional development hours, we love learning and when we have our times off from teaching, we don’t shut down. We are constantly evolving into better versions of ourselves, just as we expect our students to do beyond our classroom. We couldn’t do anything less, if we are to do right by the generations that are entrusted to us, year after year.
We just wish, especially during these uncertain times, that more of our society made it clear how valued we are by doing what’s right by us, for the sake of our nation’s children.
Teachers do what we do to show others they are not alone.
One of the greatest skills and gifts we provide as teachers is the concept that we are not meant to do life all on our own. I see my students as individual humans, each with gifts they are barely aware may exist, to transform this world in the most phenomenal ways.
However, as kids get older, life tries to tell them they are not enough. That they shouldn’t let too many know who they really are and what they’re capable of, because as they try on those parts of themselves and stumble along the way. They make mistakes.
It’s like society forgets that in learning to talk, we start off babbling. While learning to walk, we trip, fall and pull ourselves back up. While learning to trust others, we often had a lot of trust instilled in us first, when we still lived most of our time in the bubbles of our homes.
It’s why I do all I can to instill in my students a sense of team. From day one to the last day of school, my students know that I believe in them and that mistakes are simply stepping stones to help you rise up through what you learned. As they recognize the sincerity in that every day reality of who they are, in my classroom while learning the subject matter, they are also learning to trust one another.
Rather than talking words of destruction, they are to speak words of life.
Rather than seeing someone struggle, they are to come alongside and offer assistance whenever able.
Rather than watch a person in pain, they are to get help or be the help.
Rather than tear down the gifts of another that they don’t possess, they are to celebrate the gifts others provide to help themselves and the rest of our little community.
For isn’t all of that what makes for a better society for the next generation? Isn’t that worth giving every consideration for the sake of our babies, our children, our teenagers and the adults who spend huge amounts of hours with them? Isn’t that worth valuing the families who sacrifice time with their educator partners/spouses and parents, because teaching consumes a lot of our time both in and outside of school?
As the pandemic continues, give school districts and teachers grace, by coming alongside your school districts.
The medical community does what they do, knowing that it could risk their lives. While teachers know they might have to protect their kids from an intruder, most educators are scared of returning to our school buildings, without being safe from COVID-19. We are concerned for those students we know and those we already care about who we’ll have.
We are worried about what it would do if even one student, one staff member or one family member of any of us contracts and God forbid dies, from the coronavirus. The mental health of students, staff and families matter.
It’s hard to cope, teach and learn in the midst of deep grief. This reality can happen. It’s why school districts are working hard to make the right choices for how to manage this particular school year.
The general consensus across our nation’s school districts appears to be remote online, hybrid or in school, in some variation. This makes deciding how this will happen VERY difficult for those involved, with a huge awareness of knowing that not everyone will be happy and nobody wants to make anyone more anxious, but it will occur anyway.
Nobody ever thought that our nation would face a worldwide pandemic, let alone one that would shift so many parts of our lives. Even after school districts decide how school will operate, the virus can very well still cause some of the new plans to shift again. Let’s hope not, but it could happen.
Know that the majority (I would like to think & believe.) of educators, school administrators and Boards of Education don’t want more distress for anyone. I mean, this has been an intensely stressful summer break for us, when it’s usually a time of refreshing.
The present may suck in many ways, but we must never give up on ourselves or the potential that exists in the younger generations.
If your minds and emotions are feeling a sense of overload in how to manage your life and that of your families, please remember that so are ours. Plus, we are trying to figure out how our students’ lives and the lives of their families and ours will be impacted. THAT’S A LOT for us.
We will continue to do all we can for the sake of the wellbeing of students, while also keeping all of us safe. We can all learn how to take deeper breaths and let go of what we cannot control. We can all spend more time focusing on some of the positives more on a daily basis, because they do exist. For me, I will be doing all of that, plus praying, trusting God and cherishing those who are still in my life.
I know how hard this has all been. I know what it’s like to lose loved ones to this virus. I know that I would love nothing more than to be in my classroom, as usual, connecting with my students and inspiring them that they are truly the amazing human beings I know they are and that they can still change the world for good.
We’ve always had unknowns in our lives. I know that this generation of students will be some of the most resilient, most innovative and most compassionate people this world will ever see. This time will propel them in ways that will inspire them to make the years ahead far better than this year has been, thus far.
How can I say all of that and believe it? Because I’m a teacher through and through, and I believe in these kids and teens. I really do. Together, we can do far more good for all.
Believe in us. Knowing you trust us in the midst of all of this, helps us know that we are valued and as a community, we will get through this.
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This morning, as I sat reading the Word and praying, something came to the forefront of my mind. It wasn’t a new revelation. God truly knows that I’ve heard this truth many times before.
We, as believers, can easily get consumed with so many worries. Am I a good enough mother, wife, teacher, photographer, and so on and so on? What do I do when I seem to have done everything, and yet, (fill in the blank) still isn’t fixed, changed, different? Did I use my time and resources wisely? These thoughts, in and of themselves, are good ones to think about. We need to self-reflect, keep ourselves in check, have others help to keep us accountable. However, did you notice something in each of those questions? They are very “I” focused, rather than God focused.
We have a tendency to not just think long enough to self-reflect. Rather, I can easily find myself dwelling way too long on areas to the point that self-reflection can become worries. How? By not allowing God and His truths to be part of the equation. The truth is that burdens are not meant for us to hold.
Psalm 55:22 reminds us, “Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” It can’t get any clearer than that, can it? The Word doesn’t qualify or quantify the essence of our burdens. It simply tells us to give our burdens to our Lord. Which ones? All of them.
The beauty of that is that our burdens aren’t simply gone and forgotten. There’s a promise to walking in this truth. He will take care of us. He won’t let us slip and fall. So then why do we always struggle with burdensome thoughts of slipping and falling?
I clearly remember a reoccurring dream that I used to have on a very consistent basis. I would stand at the top of this long, windy staircase, and knowing how long of a walk it was, I would lean over the top railing to see how far down it was. The problem was that I would always slip and fall, straight down the center, with the fall never ending, until I suddenly awoke in a cold sweat. Kind of like an Alice in Wonderland moment, only there was no bottom leading me to a beautiful land of wonder. It was rather like a choke hold that forced thoughts to race through my head, as the speed of falling increased and I watched each level of the staircase flash before my eyes.
That is so much like what we, or at least I, can too often do. I begin thinking about an area that may or may be one that I should concern myself with, and rather than look up, I look down. Down, into myself, rather than up into the eyes of the One who sees me, who knows me, whose hands are so large that He can scoop me out and draw me close to Him, as He says, “Dear one, let me take care of you. You were never meant to fall. You were meant to stand on solid ground, and I am here. Stand on my truths.”
When I choose to do just that, my heart cries out, “Now I stand on solid ground, and I will publicly praise the Lord” (Psalm 26:12)! That doesn’t meant that the situation suddenly goes away. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t work to be done. But just as time and time again through the Old Testament God fought His children’s battles or allowed them to do so, in His power, might, and instruction, we are called to the same today.
What a magnificent feeling it is when we can stand on His solid ground. To breathe. To be held by Him, and to praise Him publicly for all He’s doing and has done for us!
Casting Crown’s song “Just Be Held” is such a wonderful reminder of what our loving Father tells us time and time again, if we would only listen:
And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
Theres freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go
Don’t get consumed by anything that isn’t of God. We are told to not worry. Matthew 6:25-34 tells us that He has us, He has the situation. We are valuable to Him and He won’t drop us. We won’t fall.
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Almost from the start of mankind, the existence of evil and suffering have been a part of the human experience. While the faces and the circumstances may change, evil and suffering still persist. Watch the news and there is plenty of evidence of the horrific acts that have been happening in the Ukraine, the beheadings of Christians in Iraq or the fighting and killings in Israel, to name a few.
While these are indeed horrible, there are other acts of evil, of injustice, happening daily in our own country and world-wide. Sex trafficking is one issue many would rather ignore. According to F.R.E.E. International:
1) There are more slaves in the world today than at any other point in history, including the trans Atlantic slave trade
2) Commercial Sex Trafficking is the third largest criminal enterprise in the world
3) Trafficking occurs both internationally and domestically within the United States
4) It is estimated that anywhere between 100,000-300,000 children are exploited for commercial sex every year in the United States
5) The average age a person enters into prostitution in the United States is between 12 and 14 years old(SOURCE: http://freeinternational.org/the-issue)
There’s also the issue of the abuse and neglect of children by the hand of those who are supposed to love and care for them. According to Royal Family Kids, which serves abused and neglected foster children across the globe, “Annually, 3.6 million cases of child abuse, neglect or abandonment are reported in America,” and “One of these victims dies every six hours due to that abuse” (http://royalfamilykids.org/about/our-history). Those are just the facts on the reported cases.
Actor, comedian and humanitarian Robin William’s suicide was another stark reminder that the hurting are among us. Many people put on a good face and say that everything is fine, when their lives are far from it. There are people going through domestic violence. There are people contemplating taking their lives, feeling there is no other way. There are people who wake up every morning wondering why they exist, because they feel worthless. There are those suffering from mental illness. Need I go on?
Unfortunately, we often ignore the obvious signs of the pain in others and the injustices that exist, because it makes us feel uncomfortable or we don’t realize that we can do something to help. What’s even sadder, is we don’t often even notice the pain and injustices around us, because people have learned to hide so much of it, recognizing that most people will sit by and do nothing.
Christians have been taught to serve, to love our neighbors, to get involved when we see someone in need. Many who haven’t read Matthew 10:25-37, have heard of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In a nutshell, those who should have helped a stranger who had been victimized walked by him and did nothing, while the most unlikely person stopped to not only help him, but to get personally involved.
Jesus Christ died for all. As John 3:16 tells us, ““For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” Notice that Christ died for ALL people. He has and always will love ALL people, and yet, we don’t often do the same.
Love requires action. Love goes beyond feeling. Love sometimes involves us to get uncomfortable. Why? Because it is not about us. It is about others, loving them, protecting them, serving them.
In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus reminds us, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” To love God is to love people. To love people is to act.
As my pastor, Dr. Ryan Darrow shared on a Sunday morning, “The Samaritan could have made many excuses to not help, like the others. What area is God asking you to get involved in another’s life? It doesn’t always mean getting involved with an organization, but the person who we see every day.”
We so often feel more comfortable conforming to what others do, even when we know we have the means to help, which doesn’t always mean money. We can help with our skills, talents, knowledge, time, whatever we have and are. What is right is still what is right. Our lives are meant to make a difference in the lives of others. We are called to fight for justice with whatever we have within us and whatever we have to give.
The Lord calls us to be involved in a practical way. As Pastor Darrow reminded us, “Our neighbors, [at home, school, work] are often metaphorically lying in a ditch hurting. What can you do? What is God calling you to do?”
We are His hands and feet. There are people dying on the inside. You are not where you are without a purpose, a purpose to change the world.
We are called to advocate on behalf of others. They are counting on us. We all know that change is needed. Be the change.
Want to talk with me more about how you can be the change? Let’s join our efforts. Are you already being the change? I’d love to hear about what you’re doing. Let’s inspire one another to do what we were called to do. May Jefferson Bethke’s latest video inspire you that darkness is losing.
As with all of my blog posts feel free to COMMENT, to FOLLOW my blog and to SHARE. I value you taking the time to read my posts.