One + Six = Eight

Don’t worry – this little math teacher hasn’t lost all her marbles…yet.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with your whole heart. Jeremiah 29:13

Though you couldn’t tell it from our classroom, I really am an introvert. Sure, I love all our fun review games, great discussions during lectures, and making memories with these sweet kiddos through learning and laughter, but at the end of the day, you’ll find me quietly curled up with a book or trying out a new recipe in the kitchen. So, of course, God figured I could use a little loving pruning in this area.

At the end of 2020, I felt God leading me to start sending out “happy mail” to connect with other Christian ladies. Can I tell you how much fun this has been? Oh my goodness! I love the creativity behind trying to find little “extras” to include in the cards I send (Bible verse cards, washi tape samples, stickers, drawings, confetti, etc.). These fun “visits on paper” (as Debbie Macomber calls them) are a way of connecting that my little introvert heart could appreciate (and great preparation for our new note card ministry at school), but as soon as I found myself getting comfortable, God called me outside of my comfort zone again.

At the end of 2021, God began putting a new project on my heart to dive deeper into connecting with Christian ladies. The idea was simple enough – find six other women to participate in a group text, each taking a day of the week to post something encouraging (a Bible verse, a devotional, a song, a prayer, etc.). I quickly found six other women willing to give it a shot, and we started January 1st, ringing in a new year with a new commitment to pursuing God like never before, and I’m not being dramatic when I tell you that this has changed my life!

We are just seven women (some starting as strangers) who have walked alongside each other for about six weeks now, and I’ve never felt more encouraged, more uplifted, and more connected. Through our group texts, we’ve prayed for each other, shared our struggles, become each other’s cheerleaders/life coaches/sounding boards, and done virtual happy dances as God has shown up and answered prayers week after week.

What’s so funny is that what we share would look so random to anyone on the outside looking in – one day a devotional, the next day a song – but God has been in EVERY ONE. I can’t tell you how many times we have all said, “that” was EXACTLY what I needed to hear or “that” was EXACTLY what God has been putting on my heart today. It blows me away!

So, for Valentine’s Day today, I can’t think of a better “gift” than to share this idea with you so that you can know what it feels like to stand shoulder to shoulder with a group of warrior princesses each and every day. If you are interested, but don’t know how to get started, please contact me – I will help you in any way I can. Then you can see that when you commit to pursuing God with six others, HE shows up in the most powerful, loving way, and then 1+6=8.

Guys – I know this post was more for the ladies, but if you want to start your own group text to encourage other men to pursue God and be the rockstar men you are called to be, PLEASE go for it! Imagine how many lives we can change, seven people at a time.

Art Therapy

If you’ve been around Mama T and me for any length of time, you know that we are always up for a good trip, good food, good shopping, and a good home remodel. Well, over the summer, all of those things came together in an overnight pilgrimage to Laurel, Mississippi, the “home” of the HGTV show Home Town.

One of the many amazing murals in Laurel.

We shopped at Laurel Mercantile and saw the Scotsman Woodshop. We stuffed ourselves at The Loft on “that good gulf shrimp” as Mama says, and we had the most amazing cake/cupcakes at Sweet Somethings.

Mama T at Laurel Mercantile.
Scotsman Woodshop and General Store
Sweet Somethings Bakery

We also drove up and down the streets of the historic district reliving our favorite memories from the show. Mom would try to recap the entire episode in the ten seconds it would take to drive in front of a house, barely leaving her enough time to catch her breath before starting all over again on the next house. Just imagine Mama T calling out things like “Spanish tile, fully restored hardwoods, Italianate brick home, MULLIONS!!!” Her sweet Southern drawl was working overtime to try to keep up with the sheer volume of words per minute.

However, of all the fun I KNEW was in store while spending time with Mom, it was an unexpected moment in an antique store that blew me away.

Southern Antique

I love art…not in an “I’m an artist” sort of way (just ask my students about my sad little stick figures on the white board). I’m not a collector either – at my house you are just as likely to find a painting from Paris as a cute farmhouse wall hanging from Target. But when I stood in front of the painting in the upstairs room of that shop, I cried!

They say that art can move you, and, y’all, I had CHURCH standing there in front of an oil painting of a little white country church. The more I looked at it, the more tears slid down my face.

Mama walked up to me to see what was going on, and I could barely choke out the answer to her question about what I liked about it.

“It’s the perspective, Mom. Anyone else would have painted that church as the focal point of the painting, but here, it’s off to the side down a hill showing the back and side of the church. Instead of staring at the front doors of this quaint, little church, the painting focuses on the journey to get there.”

As I stared at that grassy hill and old barbed wire fence in the foreground, I explained to Mom how I knew just how that grass feels under my bare feet. I know what all those evergreens smell like on a hot summer day, and staring at the hole in the fence, I feel like I’ve climbed that hill a million times, knowing just where to find that opening and run down the hill toward the church.

I was transported!

Then, walking through the store, I started talking to God about why that painting was so powerful (other than my connection to growing up in the country). Then, I got it. It was all back to perspective again – the journey depicted in that painting wasn’t about putting on your finest dress to walk through the front doors of the church on Sunday. It was about being so intimately familiar with God that you were just as welcome at His backdoor on a Tuesday afternoon as you would be at His front door on a Sunday morning.

More tears.

That painting was my journey with Jesus.

It’s not just about the Instagram-worthy Bible journaling pages. It’s about those smudged pages with words scrawled across the page, emptying my heart and my brain as fast as my hand will allow.

It’s not just about those beautiful hymns in three-part harmony. It’s for times when the words and the notes can’t make it past the giant lump in my throat.

It’s not just about the feel of my back against an old wooden pew. It’s for the feel of the carpet in my bedroom against my knees when I pray the hardest of prayers.

So, of all of the memories we made in Laurel, one of my favorites will be falling in love with the Jesus whose arms are open just as wide at the front doors on Sunday morning as they are at the backdoor any other day of the week. And that little country church in that painting did this country girl’s heart a world of good…my very own art therapy.

Flashback Friday: “The Little Teacher”

As we are sucking the marrow out of those last few weeks of summer and getting ready for all things “back to school,” I can’t help but think about that little teacher inside of me who still gets giddy just thinking about school supplies! I mean, I’ve said for YEARS that candle companies need to make a “freshly-sharpened #2 pencil” scented candle, but no such luck so far (I’ll keep you posted).

In my back-to-school moment of nostalgia, I found the following “flashback” scrolling through pictures of pictures on my phone (I find myself in that great generational divide that sometimes requires you to whip out your camera phone to snap a picture of a real life picture on display at your parents’ house). So, please excuse the glare and old-school white edges.

The Little Teacher
“Miss Leah” school picture from around 2nd grade

As embarrassing as it might be, this is one of my favorite pictures. I was wearing a denim skirt, pink tank top with matching pink belt, and a button up shirt that made me feel like I could have been friends with my hero Laura Ingalls Wilder! You guys – I walked into picture day READY! (Thanks, Mama T)

Then, as I moved up in the line, I saw that the backdrop was a beautiful autumn scene – my favorite season! Finally, when it was my turn, they handed me books (my most favorite thing in the world) to hold – SCORE!

So, by the time the cameraman stepped back to take the picture, he didn’t even have to tell me to smile because I was standing there in my favorite outfit in front of a picture of my favorite season holding my favorite object! The world was my oyster, y’all!

And here’s the crazy part, every year as we get closer to the back to school season, this is the little girl jumping up and down inside of me! I can’t believe that as an adult I get to go “play school” every week! I get to write important things on a giant whiteboard in front of the class. I have a pen collection that would make that girl in the picture pee her pants! And don’t even get me started on sticky notes and erasers! I’m getting lightheaded just thinking about it.

But here’s the most important part – if I could go back in time and talk to that girl in the picture, I would tell her to hold tight to her dream. I would tell her that when God gives you the desires of your heart, and you put Him in charge of your journey, life will be a great adventure (that might even come with cool office supplies if you’re really lucky).

Sadly, I won’t be sharing a chocolate milk with that “little teacher” in the picture anytime soon, but I will make sure to pass along that message to every student that comes through my doors. I want them to know that whether they met God in Sunday school years ago or are just now hearing about Him that He has a beautiful plan for their lives.

I want them to know that they are loved and valued, and they are so much more than the grade they made on their last quiz. I want them to fall in love with God as we learn more about His creation and all the ways He has “shown up” and “shown out” throughout history. So, whether we are looking through a microscope or the lens of history or language or math, I want them to see Him

His design.

His plan.

His purpose.

Then, the next time they look in the mirror, I hope it’s a little easier to find all those things in themselves! Because that is what I see when I look at them!

Tips for Growing in the Storm

There’s no easy way to say it – times are tough right now. It seems that uncertainty and fear are not just knocking at the door, but downright pounding on it. So, what can we do now…TODAY…to help maintain our peace? I asked HPA mom Shannon Lane to help us with a list of some practical things we can start doing right now to protect our peace and maintain our mental health. Here’s what my favorite Christian counselor had to say on the issue:

We are certainly living in circumstances which are unimaginable to most of us.  Here in Tennessee, we are recovering from tornado trauma and figuring out how to walk through the Corona Virus.  While it is true that each of us responds differently to crisis, all of us can find peace and a level of comfort by being intentional with how we spend our time.  Since we have been given an abundance of time during this season, my prayer is that we use it wisely so that we emerge having grown closer to Our Heavenly Father.

1.  Seek God.  He promises never to leave you.  He knew we would struggle with fear so in His word there are 365 directives addressing fear.  If you are especially anxious during this time, do a word study in the Bible on fear.  Write down the verses and place them around your home. Feeding ourselves with God’s truth is key to the level of peace we can experience.

Also…Pray.  You are His beloved child whom he adores.  Think of how you love your own children.  He loves you more and desires relationship with you.  It is good to verbalize your thoughts and feelings to Him… “God, I am afraid and I do not understand…”

2.  Go outside. Walking in the fresh air releases endorphins and gives opportunity for refocusing our vision.  Listen for the birds!  They continue to sing no matter the circumstances.   : )

3.  Turn off the television.  Please give yourself daily periods of time without media of any type.  Television, especially, has been shown to increase levels of anxiety which feeds on fear.

4.  Make music/Sing/Dance.  Get silly with music.  It is therapeutic to let loose and music can help you to do that.

5.  Create. Paint. Take pictures. Try new recipes.  Which creative experiences have you always wanted to try?  You can learn most anything on YouTube.

6.  Write out a gratitude list.  How have you been blessed through this experience?  I am cooking more, reading, writing, and resting more, spending quality time with the people I love.  Most importantly, I am spending more time with Our Father.

7.  Intentionally bless someone.  Whomever God has placed before you is an assignment.  How can you bless them today?  The added bonus is the joy that comes to the giver and the recipient. My elderly neighbors (who I ashamedly have never met) are an assignment to me.  I am reaching out with groceries and invitations to help with whatever they need.

8.  Reconnect with people. We are created to be in relationship with others.  This is a wonderful time to reach out to people you have lost contact with or would like to get to know.

9.  Sleep/Rest/Relax.  Resist the urge to hurry.  Give yourself permission to nap, to sleep late, to lay in the grass and look at the sky.  How often do you truly rest your body and mind?  Try resting as a solitary experience instead of something you do while you are doing something else.

10.  Get professional help if you need it.  When your sleeping, eating, or feelings have become unmanageable, it can be helpful to speak with a therapist who can help you determine the next right step.

-Shannon Lane is a grateful HPA mom.  She has a Christian counseling practice in Hendersonville and enjoys reading, home renovating, and real conversation with people.- 

What great advice to help us refocus our energy on what really matters! I want to challenge you to choose one thing off of this list to start doing today. I chose number 4 (make music). I’d love to hear what you are doing to take care of yourself and others. Please feel free to share some encouragement in the comments below. God bless! 🙂

An English Teacher’s Guide to This Week in Nashville

It’s been a big week here in Music City, and not in a good way. During the night Monday, tornadoes ripped through Middle Tennessee, leaving a path of devastation about 50 miles long. As my English class and I discussed analyzing literature this week, I stumbled upon an interesting connection to these storms.

One of the ways we discuss literature is in terms of connections we make to the text. As we draw parallels between what we are reading and the bigger picture, we cover three main types of connections: text to self, text to text, and text to world.

Text to self connections are the connections readers make between themselves and the characters and/or situations in a work of literature. Text to text connections ask us to relate what we are currently reading to other works we have read. And text to world connections challenge us to see how what we are reading reminds us of people and events in our world.

But as I reviewed this concept with my students this week, I realized that this isn’t just a tool we use to analyze literature, it is our default setting for processing life, especially the unexpected.

As we see the pictures and videos of the storm damage, we naturally begin to start drawing connections to ourselves: have friends in East Nashville. I went to Tennessee Tech and know people who are there now. own a business and don’t know if the building is okay. And the list goes on and on as we begin calling and texting friends and family to make sure everyone is okay.

Then, as the first wave of panic begins to die down, we start making connections between this situation and other situations: the 2008 tornado on Super Tuesday, the flood of 2010, and so on. I think it is our brain’s way of reminding us that we’ve survived hard times before, and we begin to call on those past experiences as a way of tapping into our muscle memory for our ability to rise.

Then, the most beautiful connection of all is made when we see this situation as a way to connect (or reconnect) with our community.

It is said that when an anthill is destroyed, the ants immediately begin to rebuild.


And that is just what we do here in Nashville. We roll up our sleeves and we start to rebuild, and as we rebuild what was damaged physically, may we also rebuild each of those connections even stronger!

-Photo by Brandon Jean, Unsplash-