Passion Projects

“The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.”
― Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, first woman to be elected head of state of an African country



I absolutely LOVE this quote! It challenges us to step out of our comfort zones, dream big, then put in the elbow grease to achieve the impossible. After all, if you already have the capacity to achieve something, it’s more of a to-do list item than a dream anyway, right?

A dream stretches us and our faith. It makes us take the first steps on a journey trusting that God will direct our path, walk beside us, and be waiting for us at the finish line.

I feel like I’m living out my dream every day at HPA! It is the best combination of my passion for God and my passion for teaching, and this giant dream that used to scare me (and sometimes still does), is the most beautiful journey of faith.

Now, I am hoping to bring even more of that passion to our final projects for English class. Instead of simply writing a final research paper, I’m asking students to take on a passion project – to create something more than just five pages in MLA format.

So far, students have come up with ideas for photography projects, how-to video series, recipe books, original music productions, and the project pitches aren’t even due yet! I can’t wait to see what all they come up with over the course of this project.

So, here we are, dreaming big scary dreams about changing the world, because we serve a big God who has equipped us with the time, talents, and resources to do just that – leave the world a better place than we found it, no matter how young (or young at heart) we are.

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. -1 Timothy 4:12

So, what is your passion project? What dream has God placed on your heart?



With the first snow on the ground, my mind turns to my love for the changing seasons. Everyone seems to have his or her favorite, and my mother and I are no exception. In fact, we share the same favorite season – fall. Here is what our beloved “Mama Thayer” had to say about her favorite season…

I love fall! I’ll say it again, I LOVE FALL! It’s my favorite time of year. I feel cool, crisp mornings. Folks have turned their gardens. Leaves are falling with exceptional color. I walk the woods with my furry kids. I want to rest, and I long to draw closer to family and friends.

Do I even need to make a case for fall’s aromas? Cinnamon, cider, pumpkin spice, spruce, and apple crisp. The good news is there is something for every level of motivation – be it in a kitchen baking or a simply enjoying a scented candle! Did I mention Lifetime movies?

At this point I’m in anticipation of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and full tilt bore winter. (Winter is the only time I can give myself permission to put aside my gardening tools and hibernate.) Yes, I’m a fan of all the seasons. I totally get the whole spring rebirth thing, for instance, and I’m a fan of that as well, but fall…it feeds my soul. In all of God’s wonders – numero uno is fall – especially if you’re Southern. Happy Fall, Y’all.

So what is your favorite season? The Bible teaches us that “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). With this in mind, we are gearing up for a season of growth and change at HPA, as well, so please stay tuned for important announcements!

Photo by Laula & Co on Unsplash

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.