Lessons My Students Teach

It was a few days ago. The question had been floating in and out of my thoughts, never really landing. When my thinker was all thought out, I did the only thing I could.

I messaged a former student. Nestled snug in a dorm room somewhere on the campus of my college alma mater, he got back to me sometime in the middle of the night while I was fast asleep.

His answer? Genius. I knew it would be. He’d been smarter than me even as an 8th grader in my English class, a philosopher even then.

Our exchange has reminded me of the powerful truth of being a teacher.

I am often the student.

That’s the way of it for educators, if we allow it.

When we stand with hearts flung wide open in front of students long enough, when we see humanity stare back into our eyes day after day, when we listen to the words not being spoken, we can learn.

Because there are lessons my students teach. Collectively. Individually. They teach me every day.

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Oh, how I’ve learned some powerful lessons.

My call is to love—not judge. All humans need a space to belong, a safe space. We all cry the words Just love me, accept me for who I am…And when a student feels accepted? His light burns bright.

Every voice matters. Every one. When you know your voice matters you know you matter. And in this life? Knowing you matter? Earth quaking. Soul shifting. Life changing.

Choosing battles is a necessity and choosing grace can win a war. One will never gain ground in a shouting match with a teenager. Or with anyone else. Shouting viewpoints never changes minds or hearts.

Words have power. My words have power. Like a fire, they can provide warmth needed to survive or they can ravage leaving only a burnt down soul. Saying the wrong thing and seeing the hurt in my students’ eyes? One time is a time too many.

I can be wrong. And I need to say so.

Because wisdom has nothing to do with age. My students? They see straight through ignorance. Admitting what I don’t know is powerful.

Different theologies and philosophies can respect each other. Though I love Jesus, many students I’ve taught don’t. But the wealth of knowledge and understanding I absorb just from hearing their hearts is far better than only listening to what I agree with.

Racism and discrimination is still very real. Having a beautiful black student stand in front of his classmates to give a speech against racism that recounts just one of many racial slurs that had been poured over him? The tears on my cheeks were from eyes opened wide to his authentic struggle and the struggle of countless others.

The beauty of a soul comes in every shape, size, and color. When our nation stops paying lip service to this ideal? Only then will we heal.

The best lessons are always unplanned—unscripted. Always.

No one wants to fail. I’ve looked into the eyes of one who has stopped trying. Begged and pleaded. Grasped and held tight. But staring back are the hollow eyes of one who already calls himself a failure. It breaks my heart. Every time. Because no child dreams of failure on the playground.

Giving up is not an option. For any teacher. Ever. If we can stop just one more kid from giving up… If we can pound determination into just one more student… If we can inspire just one more life to keep trying…

There is always hope.

Because the next generation is beautiful. Their creative ideas and thirst for understanding is inspiring. Their gifts and talents and intellect have nothing to do with some test-crazed world ranking. No. They have the power to change this world.

They do.

I believe in this next generation.

Not because of who I am. But because of who they are.

May I never stop learning.

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Communicating With Your Child’s Teacher

Do you ever wonder how to approach your child’s teacher? You have questions. Maybe it’s curriculum. Maybe it’s grades. Maybe you feel your child has been treated unjustly. Maybe you wish to encourage.

I’m a teacher. I’m a momma too. When I feel something is going on at school that’s not in the best interest of my child? My momma-bear can rear her ugly head quicker than she can down a mocha Frappuccino.

There are horrible teachers in this world. But more often than not, incredible, loving teachers exist as well. Good teachers are always out for the best interest of their students.

Always.

Communicating effectively with your child’s teacher is paramount to have a successful school experience for your little ones. The following suggestions may help create the healthy dialogue needed.

Privileged to be sharing some parent/teacher communication tips with The Moms Magazine. I’d love for you to click on over there and check it out!

 

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Choosing Right Now

When I was a little girl, my sister and I would visit my grandma and granddaddy’s house. It wasn’t large. It wasn’t fancy. It didn’t have closets teeming with toys for us to play with. In reality, we were often bored.

But that’s not what I remember most.

I remember the way Grandma would pinch my nose between her knuckles of bone and loose skin, calling me her, “little stinker” with her sugary smile and warm, endless hugs.

I remember Grandma’s tiny mouse of a kitchen. So tiny she kept her mom’s-away-eat-whatever-you-want snacks in her oven. But the dinners and deserts she cooked? I can’t even…She showed me how love and serving were wrapped tight together with no space in between.

I remember playing checkers with Granddaddy. He never let me win once. Not ever. And I never beat him. Not ever. He challenged me. Taught me it was okay to lose if you’ve given it your best.

I remember the small grove of citrus trees Granddaddy planted behind his house. I can still see his strong hands with fingertip wrinkles as he pulled oranges from the branches and stood in the grass peeling them in one large, long peel, cutting chunks for my sister and me to eat. With juice dripping from our chins, he taught us the beauty of hard work and a quiet soul.

I remember love.

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And I wonder.

Wonder what kind of legacy I’m leaving my own children.

Wonder after the wrapping paper and bows have been cleared away. After the flurry of Santa and his reindeer have flown back to the North Pole. After gift cards and Christmas money are gone.

I wonder if my kids will understand what matters in this one life we’ve been given. Or am I simply raising two more soldiers in the army of the entitled.

Because honestly? They got a ridiculous amount of gifts for Christmas.

But did they get a ridiculous amount of me?

And that’s the real question. The gut-punching reality of this crazy life.

I’m distracted by the busy, the urgent, the to-dos. I forget to look my children in the eyes and see them—see their hearts. There are days I miss their joys, their needs because I’m chained to my own definition of the needs-to-get-done.

Do my children get enough of me? Or do they get the thin-stretched-out-exhausted-shreds of what’s left over?

The irony? My son is sitting beside me right now, trying to show me his Power Ranger riding on his white-stuffed lion, but all I can think is how much I need to finish writing this piece…

That’s me. I’m that mom.

It’s hard. But I always have a choice.

I never felt ignored or put aside by my Grandparents. Not ever. They were always present, always looking me in the eyes, always listening.

I want to do the same.

The Grandparent relationship is different and my parents now fill that beautiful, loving role with my children. But I can do better.

I can close the computer. Put down the phone. Ignore the email.

Being present is a choice.

A choice I want to make.

Because my Court Jester is still here, asking me what I’m writing about…

Posted in Beautiful Life, Motherhood | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Why Mommas Need Each Other

Last night I sat at dinner with an incredible group of blogging mommas. Intelligent. Hard-working. Funny. Strong. Beautiful. As we enjoyed delicious offerings the stories swirled.

We talked about everything and our children were always part of the conversation.

Their education. Their bodily functions. Their emotions. Our emotions. Our successes. Our #MomFails. The technological world they live in. We live in. And how do we parent that?!

Somehow, on a crazy whim, armadillos even made their way to our table talk. I’m still not sure how.

And then, as the food had long been cleared from the table and our conversation slowed, we admitted the hard. We confessed this parenting journey is not for the faint. We looked deeply into the eyes of our sisters and acknowledged how wrenching this mom-life really is.

Wrenching because of the wondering.

The wondering…

Will our children will be okay?
Will they walk this big-wide world with courage and intelligence?
Will they ever learn to go to sleep without holding our hands?
How will exposure to the harsh realities of the world affect our children?
Will they follow the leader or will they be the leader?
Are we pushing too hard? Not hard enough?
Will potty training ever end?
Are we raising entitled children that only take or children who give to this world?
Should they go to public school? Private? Homeschool?
Will they navigate the Internet wisely?
What if I get it wrong?

We spend so much of our momma lives in the wondering. It often takes us to the edge, to the places where worry wreaks havoc, and we begin to believe we got it all wrong, leaving our children in therapy—forever.

But last night, I left dinner feeling less alone.

Because every momma knows the deep wonderings—the longings for our children to thrive in this world. That’s why we so desperately need each other. Why we must cling to each other with white-tight knuckles. Our survival depends on it.

Because sometimes it is only another momma that can talk me off the ledge.

Only another momma understands the secrets our hearts never speak. Only another momma has ever really been there—ever really witnessed the sheer terror potty training and adolescence and senior graduation can bring to our tender-strong feminine hearts.

We need each other.

We don’t need judgment and criticism for the different choices we make. Because while we know the burdens of motherhood, we will never walk in the shoes of any other but our own.

From breastfeeding to co-sleeping. From schooling choices to diet. From political views to religious convictions, we must pull back from our harsh words and realize, we need each other.

The deeper I’m entrenched in motherhood, the more I realize how much I rely on my momma friends and those who have already raised steady, grounded children. Those are the moms I sit beside just to drink their words of wisdom—because I may teach teens, but I’ve never mothered one.

I also want to whisper soft into the ears of new mommas. Because I have been there. I do know that pain and joy wrapped together in the life miracle.

The longer I’m a momma, the more I’m convinced it takes the village. The collective voices of feminine wisdom mentoring, guiding, loving each other through motherhood.

Singing words of encouragement into the souls of our sisters.

You’re enough.

You matter.

Your job is important.

You’re important.

You’re strong.

You’ve got what it takes.

You were made for your children.

You’re a good mom.

This is why we need each other. We can clutch hands around our children together and remind ourselves God created the woman because no one else on earth could nurture and guide and embrace in the way we can.

The beauty of motherhood is reflected in our children, yes. But it is also reflected in us. When we look into the eyes of another momma, we see our own beauty shining—showing the world our calling matters.

This is why mommas need each other.

A few amazing women (and our children) from my village...

A few amazing women (and our children) from my village…

Posted in Beautiful Life, Friendship, Motherhood | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

When I’m Tired of New Year’s Resolutions

New Year: New You. And all that jazz.

I’m not one for listing New Year’s Resolutions. Partly because I fail. Every time. And who likes to set themselves up for failure? And failing is exhausting.

Instead, for the last several years, I’ve prayed for an ideal. An idea. A word. A phrase. A single focus for my year(s) that may last as long as my Jesus wills it.

Last year the word was selfless. It still leaves me raw around the edges as I face the choices I continue to make tinged with my own selfish desires. Because it’s so dang hard to give up yourself. Yet? It’s harder still to sink deep into the mire of self-absorption.

Selfless was and is no easy journey. I will never arrive at my destination, but joy meets me along the way. And I’m ever seeking the joy. Always the joy.

Our Christmas vacation has come to an end. I sigh driving (okay, riding while Prince Charming drives) down from the mountaintops, from the places my fingertips seemed to touch God’s face in the clouds.

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I’m faced with my descent back into reality. Back to the day in and day out toil of life. Dragging my feet. Pulling my will up from the mud. My heart cries Sweet Jesus, help me face the mundane.

Truth? He’s the reason I can face the routine. He’s the One who makes the ordinary beautiful—water into wine, a simple basket of fish and bread for a multitude, mud and spit into healing sight.

And it’s in this moment I realize I have only one resolve. One ideal that will change me—from the inside out. Maybe it’s a bit cliché. You may say trite. Others may roll their eyes…there she goes. Bringing Jesus into everything.

But He is everything.

So this year? My ideal?

Know Jesus.

Two words. Words I want to seep into the dark shadows of my soul, bringing light to the cracked and parched places.

I want to Know Jesus more. Because if I know Him better. If I dig in deep to who He is. If I sink into His embrace. If He is more real to me every day.

If these things, then others will follow.

Because I want to love people, all people, the way my Jesus loves the souls of humanity. Because my heart is ripped by the way humanity shreds itself into tatters with hate.

If I Know Jesus, I will love like Jesus. The more I love Him, the more I love like Him.

Genuine. Real. Authentic. This is the way I want to invest in the world. This is the way I want to love the Savior who was torn by nails and lashes for me.

It’s hard—this call to love humanity. And really? What does it look like? How is this unabashed love for people lived out?

I’m not sure, but I know easy isn’t part of the view. I don’t believe I want easy. What I have to know, what I must remind myself—just because I want to Know Jesus more, doesn’t mean life will become smooth.

It may just get more difficult.

But this is the journey. This is the resolution. It’s personal. It’s deep. The easiest hardest goal I can have. I’ll fail continuously. Yet, if I Know my Jesus more, my soul will know more of His grace.

It’s a bit scary this resolve. Because crazy love can ask you to do crazy things.

Yet it’s there—this outlandish desire to know deep the Savior I’ve called my own for as long as I can remember.

Know Jesus.

There is no resolution I’d rather strive toward. And failure? It’s not an option.

Posted in Joy, Relationship with God | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

When Wanting More Collides With Christmas

It’s Christmas. The Season of Giving. But I’m struggling. Struggling because I want.

I’ve spent the last week driving around new subdivisions. Dreaming. Houses with granite countertops and more than one kitchen drawer. Houses with more than 1000 square feet. I want a new house.

I open my closet door each morning and sigh big. I do. I have the same five pants/skirts I wear every. single. week. I dream of coordinating accessories blended perfectly with anything other than my Birks. I want beautiful clothes.

I open my email or I walk into the mall or worse yet, I stroll through Target, and I see an ocean of items I would love to drop into my shopping basket. Books? I could never have enough. Make-up and jewelry and purses, oh my! I want pretty things.

I want.

Sharing this Christmas Eve for Orlando Moms Blog. I would love for you to read more of my struggle of want by clicking here.

 

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An Imperfectly Perfect Christmas

We try to make it perfect, this Christmas season. We want beautiful decorations, painted-delightfully cookies, and low stress. We want to be givers of the best gifts evers.

But it rarely turns out that way.

I have a list. A list of wonders since December began. Here it is—my own version of the 12ish Days of Christmas. You can sing along if you want, but it may go better and a little less wonky if you just read it because, well, momma don’t got time to make it rhyme.

  1. A brand new water heater
  2. One tree light strand burnt out.
  3. Another house light strand all black.
  4. Three store trips made for one batch of brownies.
  5. Christmas PJs given early for the girl who grew overnight and needed PJs for the church Christmas production.
  6. Are my jeans getting tighter?
  7. A dead DVR with all recordings lost. (I know. First world problems. But still…)
  8. One brand new tire. Did I mention the tire was only 1,000 miles old before it found a nail?
  9. Nine straight days of not home ‘till after 7:00 pm.
  10. Over-sugared, over-stimulated, over-tired children.
  11. A Court Jester whose list for Santa changes daily.
  12. Mildew rings around the toilet. (Because where would my blog be without those?)

See? Far from perfect. And probably a bit like your Christmas season. While we have visions of Sugar Plum fairies swirling through our dreams, reality dances through our days.

Being human is synonymous with imperfection. We can’t seem to get it right. No matter our striving and straining. Presents are forgotten. Cookies are burned. Lights cease their twinkling. We wonder if Christmas will ever be perfect?

Have you ever wondered at the imperfection of that first Holy Night, that first Noel?

A pregnant girl trudging with her betrothed through the desert. Her mud-caked feet and sand-filled clothing carrying her swollen womb when contractions begin. No midwife mentioned. No birth plan created. Can you imagine?

Just Mary. Just Joseph. Just the animals. Just the poor shepherds.

On the filthy, hay-covered floor of a stable she labors into the night—her body bringing forth the Light of Heaven. The imperfect giving birth to the perfect. She wraps her babe in cloth, laying her God in a splintered manger, not knowing His arms would one day be stretched across a splintered cross.

The Gift of Christmas? We don’t have to be perfect.

The Holiness of Heaven came down to the dirt-filled earth. For the sake of our mistakes, with the Grace of a Savior, beneath the brilliance of stars, Emmanuel was born.

God came down because we can never be perfect. Because we will never get it right on our own. Because we needed Him.

Christmas isn’t perfect because I buy the right gifts or have the best cookies or the most beautiful decorations or plan the most elaborate family outings. Christmas is only ever perfect because of the Cross—not my striving, never my straining.

The babe born in a stable one starry night grew tall only to stumble down a dusty road, beaten and bruised for me, for you.

And when the pressures of the season swell within my soul, burying joy somewhere in the darkness of stress and burdens of imperfection? I breathe deep the splintered manger. Because only there will my Christmas ever be perfect.Mary

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When Your Christmas is Tired

Our Ella was four when we bought her the nativity. Painted genuine with muted colors. Rugged, durable, real—beautiful. It wasn’t a cartooned toy, and it was perfect for her. Perfect for her tiny hands to carry the baby Jesus, to travel Mary and Joseph to the stable, to journey shepherds and Wisemen to the manger.

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I love this sweet nativity, held so much with little-girl hands the faces are worn away. Crowns and angel wings have been chipped and glued, chipped and glued. And Baby Jesus continues to sleep peace in His momma’s arms. Even now, my Ella-girl takes the set to her room placing figures just so for the Season.

Her nativity.

Worn ragged with love.

And the nativity in my heart? Sometimes its worn ragged with this season.

Hustle and bustle. To and fro. The balancing act of the holidays brings a dance of parties and work. Late nights again and again leave children grumpy—parents grumpier. Laughing and smiling when it’s easy to purchase the perfect present. Whining and sighing when it’s not.

And I struggle to teach my children generosity in a season that spends. When gift getting can be a blessing but in the gift giving you become the blessing. Wanting to ignore the Pinterest perfect but succumbing to those late nights scrolling and wishing for more money, more time, more. I’m consumed.

Then sometimes we can’t unclothe ourselves from pain and sorrow to put Christmas on. Our skin pulls heavy with loss—suffering the season without ones we love dear. Tears don’t stop just because Rudolph has a red nose or Frosty’s a jolly happy soul.

No.

Sometimes our nativity view is blurred with the salty wet in the corners of our eyes.

And sometimes it’s the ceaselessness. The never stopping. The never breathing. The never slowing. A week into December and tiredness is already stomping through my soul. The nativity, the birth, the origin of the Christ-child becomes a faded echo in a Christmas of coming and going and doing.

When what I crave? What I yearn for? Is just the being.

To sit next to an ornamented tree, glowing with soft lights. To breathe in the candle fragrance. To hear the carols, old and new, allowing them to float through my heart and land in my soul. To feel the Advent deep.

Because the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes is coming—has come. The world, round and pregnant, anticipates the celebration of His gift.

Christmas is only ever clear when the nativity is rubbed clean through with our focus, with our world-weary hands. Because sometimes you just need to hold the baby Jesus in your hands to remember He resides in your heart.

Christmas is when we see His Nativity for what it really means. It reminds us to take the Christ-child in our hands. To feel real the significance of the moment, the weight.

The twinkling moment a tiny babe with ten fingers and ten toes became Emanuel.

God. With. Us.

So this December day, when your Advent is rushed and your Christmas is tired. When your manger has faces rubbed away by little hands and splintered wood builds a stable. When you can’t seem to find the beauty and wonder of the season.

Begin with the Nativity—the beginning, the origin, the birth.

It is in the birth we find life. The first breath of the Christ-child breathed life into the souls of humanity. Only the worn out feeding-box, with it’s wrapped-in-swaddling-clothes gift, can save our worn out Christmas.

Can you hear the cries of the infant piercing the dark? Can you hear the soft comfort of a new momma whispering in a King-babe’s ear? We don’t have to look hard.

Christmas is in a manger.

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A Holiday Perfected

I have a confession to make. But before I share my shadowed secret, I want you to know—I don’t feel any guilt for what I’ve done. Not a shred. Even when my daughter looks at me with her warm chocolate eyes and her turned-down lips. Not even then.

Are you ready?

If so, I’d love for you to click on over here to The Moms Magazine where I share my hidden Christmas confession today. I know. Shameless teaser. But I can’t spoil my secret too quickly. You may or may not have the same one….

Posted in Beautiful Life, Christmas, Motherhood | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Because Thanksgiving Changes Me

Clothes pile up in front of my washer. Baskets of clean laundry sit at the end of my unmade bed. My son scratches out letters in the dust on our end tables. Mildew plays “ring around the rosey” in our toilets. The dishwasher is emptied and waits to be filled again by the dishes heaped in the sink.

Stacks of student essays stare at me from my crowded desk. Three tests await creation and lesson plans need to be written. Call parents. Read The Scarlet Letter.Reread Gatsby. And then. Then assessments are failed, and I must rethink. redo. reimagine.

Momma! Momma! Momma! The endless needing. The arguing and bickering of siblings separated six years. Sticky fingers pull the hem of my shirt. What’s for dinner? We’re out of toilet paper. Can you check my homework? And I just want to pee alone. MOM!

Daily life can weigh me down.

Please click here to continue readingSharing my heart at Orlando Moms Blog on this Thanksgiving morning. May you and your family have a blessed holiday full of tender memories. Happy Thanksgiving Friends!

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