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! 🙂

Delight Yourself in the Lord

Saturday night as my husband and I were getting ready for bed, he said something that always melts my heart. No, it wasn’t how much he loved me or even how cute I must have looked in my comfy fuzzy PJs (LOL). What he said was, “I had fun with you today.”

That day, we had tried a new restaurant in the morning and then (for the first time that I can ever remember in our relationship), we watched 3 movies back to back! While my husband enjoys unwinding with some screen time, I can hardly ever sit still long enough to get through an entire movie unless I’m doing like three other things at the same time. But Saturday, we just enjoyed being together…on purpose instead of just as background noise in our relationship. We didn’t wake up that morning with epic movie-watching plans; it just happened, and it turned out to be such a great day. So, of course, I said, “I had fun with you today, too.”

Then, I realized how often we actually say this to each other. I think, without realizing it, I stumbled upon one of the core values in our marriage – to have fun together! And it’s something we really are intentional about – we ride motorcycles together, go on trips together, try out new restaurants together, and enjoy having a million inside jokes together.

But standing in the kitchen this morning, I started digging deeper, wondering if there were any other lessons to uncover. Then I began thinking about my relationship with God and if there might be any connections. I almost laughed out loud imagining God telling me during my evening prayers that He had fun with me that day…then, it became the most beautiful picture of complete surrender to God.

I stood there imagining all the ways that God and I have had fun during a day. I thought of beautiful sunrises and sunsets my Artist Friend has painted. I thought about all the little “God winks” throughout the day that let me know He cares. I thought about all the times I’ve felt that tug on my heart to say something to someone and felt the joy of actually doing so. And I thought about all those big belly laughs – the laughing until you cry (or snort) and start laughing all over again!

Then I thought, what if I’m crazy?!? I mean, imagining God giving me a virtual spiritual fist bump at the end of a fun day together…I know how that sounds. So, just as I began talking myself out of it, a verse came to mind. “Delight in the Lord…”

Ha! I was onto something, but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember the rest of the verse, even though I was sure it was one I knew by heart. I headed downstairs to my computer, the whole time repeating the same phrase, “Delight in the Lord…” “Delight in the Lord…” No luck – I couldn’t come up with the rest of the verse.

I searched it up online, and almost had a literal face palm moment…

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

You see, every time I thought of that verse, I had focused in on the second half about God giving us the desires of our heart. Sometimes it was as part of a prayer asking God to fulfill a dream I had for my life or answer a big prayer request, and other times, it was surrendering my dreams in exchange for His will. But either way, I’d focused way too much on the second half, because there in black and white was the part that I’d been dreaming up in my kitchen – having fun with God, truly delighting in Him.

So, now, I plan on being even more intentional about seeing all the ways I can delight in the Lord – more belting out Toby Mac lyrics on my way to work, more impromptu solo dance parties in the kitchen, and more opening my eyes to the God of joy who asks me to delight in Him!

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More

While updating the website this morning, I was drawn back to a blog post I wrote over a year ago entitled “Joy Unspeakable.” As I read back over that post, I was almost in tears. Not because it is any less true today, but because it rings truer than ever!

For so many reasons, the last year has been the hardest one I’ve ever faced, but as I was thinking about the year in terms of that old blog post, one word came to mind: more.

There were more phone calls that made me instantly sick to my stomach, more hospital rooms, more tearful prayers, more pleading with God, and more questions than answers.

But for each of those “more” moments that broke my heart, there was more of God, more of knowing new facets of Him that I had never known to that depth, more light in the darkness, more laughter through tears, and more stretching of my faith.

I wouldn’t wish those phone calls and hospital visits on anyone! But what I do hope for is that you are blessed with knowing the abundant more that our Sweet Savior has to offer. He has met me and held my hand through each of these struggles, and He promises to do the same for you, dear friend!

Most importantly, what I have learned through walking through the impossible is that each time that “joy [came] in the morning,” a little bit of muscle memory was added to my faith. The next time I faced something hard, I could lean not just on God’s beautiful promises, but also on the divinely specific and nuanced details of how He walked me through the last valley. And, friend, that muscle memory of faith is priceless! Because, as promised, “in this world you will have trouble.” But do you know what the rest of that verse says?

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33

Friend, our Heavenly Father, our ever-present help in times of trouble gives us this guarantee: He has overcome the world! So, we can STILL say that even in the darkest of nights, JOY comes in the morning because it is the great Overcomer of the world that holds our hands, hears our prayers, and catches every tear we cry until the day when those tears of sorrow are exchanged for tears of joy unspeakable!

Joy Comes in the Morning
Psalm 30:5 “For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Cultivating Culture

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The concept of culture is a hot topic in businesses, schools, and churches, and rightfully so. We’ve managed to take this beautiful word that covers cultivated behavior, accumulated experiences, and a collection of patterns both explicit and implicit and use it to describe, as my students might say… the “vibe” of a group of people.

This idea of identifying our values and intentionally living them out is so woven into our culture, it even affects our art. How many of us have a cute farmhouse painting declaring that “In this house, we…” or “In this family, we…”? What follows those statements is usually a list of verbs declaring what “we” do… forgive each other, love one another, give second chances, etc.

While I’ve always been drawn to these, my students and I have never really taken time to create a list like that for HPA, but what happened yesterday was more beautiful than any list we could have written as a beginning-of-the-year icebreaker exercise. But first, I need to give you a little linguistics lesson so you can fully understand how amazed I was at what took place yesterday.

While studying linguistics in college, I learned about the difference between prescriptivism and descriptivism. Precriptivism prescribes a set of rules for grammar and mechanics that should be followed to the letter. Descriptivism looks at how we communicate naturally, then uses the tools of grammar and mechanics to describe that communication. I find myself using this analogy for so much of what we face in life, and yesterday was no exception.

Yesterday, in one of the most authentic conversations I’ve ever been a part of in a school setting, something AMAZING happened. My students started describing our school culture. One by one they listed the values that we hold dear and the way those values benefit our school culture. They spoke about a lack of bullying, the need for quick and genuine forgiveness, the importance of humility, and the profound impact of being in relationship with people who come alongside you and encourage you.

It was BEAUTIFUL!

They said that coming to school just feels like coming to another home, and that it truly feels like we are a family, complete with a bonus mom/cool aunt, grandmother, and a giant list of brothers and sisters that would fill up about five of those classic home school vans. 😉

When asked why they thought it was like this, their answers left me speechless! One mentioned the fact that it just felt like the Holy Spirit was present in class every day, making it almost impossible to bully, gossip, and lie. But what surprised me most is that they said that it was just the culture we’ve created here at HPA.

And though my heart was bursting with pride at all I was hearing, all I could think is that

THIS is what it looks like to put God at the center.

THIS is what it looks like when teenagers choose to love others the way that Christ loves us, and

THIS is what it looks like to be in relationship with people who cheer each other along, walk with you through the hard times, and have your back day in and day out.

Because…

In this family, that’s just what we do!