Lessons Learned from Trying on Glasses

Yesterday, during our second day of school this year, a few of my students came in with the cutest glasses on you’ve ever seen! Now, some people may love high-end shoes, while others may love name brand shirts, but this little nerd right here? Glasses!

What’s interesting is that right now, nerdy glasses are trending – the bigger, the better. I mean, I’ve been wearing glasses since probably junior high, but if a trend comes along for something I’m already wearing, I am HERE for it! I’ll be at the check out counter at a store, and someone will compliment my black and white polka dot glasses, and all I can think is What a time to be alive!

But back to yesterday. When I saw these cute glasses and began “fan-girling” on them, my students were kind enough to let me try them on. I ran into the bathroom and took a look at myself in the mirror. “I look PRECIOUS in these,” I said jokingly.

On the way back out of the bathroom, I heard one of the girls lightheartedly say, “I wish I had that kind of confidence,” and I can’t get that phrase out of my head.

Here’s what I want to tell that girl (and EVERY girl) – Sis, that confidence was hard-earned! I’ve survived braces, bad haircuts (ask my mom about my self-inflicted half-inch bangs), and cringeworthy wardrobe malfunctions that will turn your face red just HEARING about them! But here’s the thing, I’ve learned that I don’t get to press “pause” on the calling and purpose God has placed on my life just because something like this has happened.

That gross spaghetti stain on your white shirt you got at lunch? If your day stops there, who is missing out on the blessing of your encouraging word that afternoon while you can’t stop looking at that reddish-orange abstract art that just keeps growing bigger the more you try to clean it?

God’s purpose for your life and for your day, don’t stop just because life threw you a curve ball, but guess what? Neither do His promises. He’s with you through all of it.

But what’s the secret to getting through it? Being so laser-focused on His plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11) and so secure in your identity in Him (Psalm 139:14) that everything else is just white noise.

So, laugh it off, because we’ve all been there. Lift your head high, because you don’t want that pretty crown to fall off of your head (even if you are having a bad hair day). And keep doing exactly what you’re called to do, because someone needs your strength, your confidence, and your smile (braces and all)!

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Joy Unspeakable

It’s been a big week here at HPA – the start of our second year, and for many students, their very first week at Higher Path Academy. I am so excited about all the new students and families I have met, and I can’t wait for our second year to be so awesome that last year gets jealous!

As new families have come in, I have noticed one common theme – people often mention that they heard how energetic and fun the classes are. At one point, I overheard my mom speaking with a new family and told them, “A lot of people ask if Leah is always this full of joy, and (not because she’s my daughter) but yes she is!” While that is such a huge compliment, it really hit home with me since I’ve had the topic of joy on my heart for the last few weeks.

While I was in college working on my teacher certification, a huge focus was placed on our philosophies of education. We wrote multiple papers about it, presented and defended it in front of a panel of professors, and included it in our portfolios for future job interviews. I’ve thought a lot about how my philosophy of education has evolved, and if I were to rewrite it today, without a doubt, joy would be the major focus.

Students walk into my classroom with all kinds of worries and fears and doubts, but if for just a few hours, we can smile and laugh and learn together, maybe all those negative things can take a back seat for just a moment. I want my classroom to be that safe space that feels like you’re at home and at church and at school all at the same time. I think that is where learning truly occurs – in the context of God’s Word through the strength of relationships in an atmosphere of joy.

And I am passionate about sharing this joy with my students because as Christians, it is available to each of us. The problem is that many times we confuse happiness with joy, but happiness is a temporary emotion, circumstantial and fleeting. While our emotions are part of God’s design for us, we are not meant to operate at that level. Instead, God operates in the permanent – He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), and that is His desire for us – not just moments of happiness but a lifetime of joy.

“But life is hard.”

I know. Our friends and family have not been untouched by some of the same tragedies facing my students and their families. I know the devastation cancer wreaks on a family. I’ve seen the affects of the pain of addiction and abuse. I’ve cried with people battling illnesses of all kinds and prayed with and for those who have faced unimaginable loss. But even in those darkest of nights, God’s promise rings true that JOY comes in the morning (Psalm 30)!

I love the description of joy in 1 Peter: “Whom having not seen, you love; in whom, though now you see him not, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” It’s like God KNOWS we can’t wrap our brains around the lifetime of joy He has called us to. It’s “unspeakable;” other translations say “indescribable” or “inexpressible.” It’s just like the peace He promises us – “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). It’s peace in the face of turmoil and joy in the midst of despair – something the world can never replicate, because it is the divine work of the One and Only True God!

So, that is my philosophy of education – that woven into the fabric of every lesson plan and homework assignment and project, that my classroom would be overflowing with God’s unspeakable joy!

 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 15:13)

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

 

 

Under the Gallatin Sun

Have you ever seen that movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”? It’s probably considered old by now, but it is about a recently divorced woman who buys a house in Tuscany on a whim and decides to start her life over, only things don’t go quite as she planned (but when do they ever?).

Anyway during one scene (while looking for a snake, I believe), she talks about what she is wishing for – a wedding and a family. At the end of the movie, her friend smiles and explains to her that she got her wish. The only “problem” was that it wasn’t exactly how she had pictured it (her wedding and her family).

I thought about that scene a lot yesterday. I prayed for kids, and God has sent literally HUNDREDS into my life even if none of them are “mine.” I prayed for a classroom of my own, and God sent me a WHOLE SCHOOL!

One of my favorite quotes is “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.” Even though my life may not look exactly like I may have pictured it sometimes, God keeps helping me adjust my vision to match His and not mine…and you know what? His version is always better. Sure, there are disappointments, but when I start getting sucked in to comparing my life to other people’s lives, I’ve learned to truly say that “it is well with my soul.” Then I remember that His ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are not my thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). His thoughts are higher; His dreams, bigger; and His plan, so much better!

So, yesterday, before I left my classroom for the day, I felt God calling me to just sit in the chair and soak it in for a minute. I hopped up on my “teacher chair” and stared at my empty classroom – full of new decorations, new hopes, new dreams, new life, and I was overwhelmed! I looked at the chairs I had to buy to make room for all the new students. I marveled at the poster on the wall announcing our Washington, D.C. field trip, and I stared at the books on the shelf, full of amazing knowledge to share about God and His creation. All I could think was ‘How did I get here?’

I got here by trading in my dreams for God’s plan, and trusting that when He gives me the desires of my heart, He is faithful to complete the good work He started in me. So, I sat there and just poured out my gratitude to God for what He has done in my life, even in the midst of all those times it felt like starting over, and with tears in my eyes, I enjoyed the view under the Gallatin sun.