It was one of those “perfect” weather days – mid-70’s, low humidity, the sun was shining, and a light breeze was blowing through the air. I was walking the trails at a nearby park (one of my favorite things to do), listening to Pandora radio on my iPhone, and admiring the beautiful scenery. Life was good.
The song, “Take My Hand,” by Shawn McDonald started playing through my earbuds, and I was singing along inside my head as I continued walking the trails – “Take my hand to the promised land / And on you I want to stand / Cause I cannot do it on my own / You’re what I need and I need to be / Right by your side cause I cannot hide / Lord, I know I need you…”
Then, right before I was about to take my first step across a bridge, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. I looked down and saw this…
My foot was within inches of stepping on the tail of a snake! Some people might scream. Some people might run away. I froze. Fear stopped me in my tracks.
But I didn’t stay frozen for long, because a few seconds later I remembered, “I’ve come across snakes two other times walking this trail. In the past, I stepped back, let the snake slither away, and then I continued walking. Everything turned out okay. I should do that again.”
So, I stepped back, took out my camera, snapped a picture, and watched this long snake slither across the bridge and into the grass.
I continued walking on the path, but this time I was looking down more frequently, in case that snake had any friends in the area. As I was walking, I realized a few things:
A snake stopped me in my tracks. Maybe something else has stopped you in your tracks - financial difficulty, an unexpected medical diagnosis, dealing with trauma/painful experiences from your past, stress at work or at home, worrying about a loved one or the future, etc...
When fear stops you in your tracks, extend your hands – to God and to others.
When fear stops you in your tracks, use it as a moment to reflect on God’s faithfulness.
When fear stops you in your tracks, remember that God already knows what’s ahead and He promises to stay by your side.
Fear temporarily stopped me in the park that day, but I’m thankful I kept going. Otherwise I would’ve missed the beautiful scenery that was waiting for me up ahead.
Another school year is coming to an end. In 13 years, I’ve taught in 3 different buildings, 4 different classrooms, and have had the opportunity and privilege to teach over 300 students.
Even with all that experience, this has been the most challenging year of my teaching career. At times I have felt restless. Earlier this year, I heard Jill Briscoe speak and she said,
“You go where you’re sent, and you stay where you’re put, and you give what you have until you’re done.”
I don’t know if I will spend my entire working career in a classroom, but I do know that God hasn’t called me out of the classroom yet. And because of that, I continue to invest my time and energy into the students with whom I’ve been entrusted.
Even though I’m their teacher, this year, my students taught me an important lesson.
They helped me realize just how much of an influence teachers have over their students.
If we model love, compassion, patience, kindness, and respect to our students, they are more likely to be loving, compassionate, patient, kind, and respectful to others. Our students look to us and will follow our lead.
When thinking about what I could do to end the year and influence my students in a positive way, the phrase, “Speak love,” kept coming to mind.
I wanted my students to leave our classroom feeling loved and encouraged.
I wanted to speak words of affirmation over them, so that they would know how to do this for someone else.
And so I sat down and wrote “Tootle Notes” to each of my 23 students.
In case you’re wondering, a “tootle” is a specific compliment/praise. It is the opposite of a tattle. Throughout the year, I have written “Tootle Notes” to students when I see something praiseworthy, and students have written Tootle Notes to each other. They love giving and receiving Tootle Notes.
In these final Tootle Notes I wrote things such as:
Writing these notes reminded me about the positive qualities of my students and the progress they made this year. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget how far they’ve come.
When I was done, I had a sea of Tootle Notes and I couldn’t wait to share them with my students!
When I got to school, I gathered the kids on the carpet for a special “Tootle Time.”
One by one, the students sat in our special chair. I read their Tootle Notes aloud before giving them the actual notes to keep.
There is something powerful about hearing specific praise, not just reading it.
Seeing my students’ faces light up with smiles was wonderful, but what touched my heart the most was that they clapped loudly after each Tootle Note was read.
They cheered for their friends.
They celebrated each others’ successes.
They were proud of one another.
And I was proud to be their teacher.
One thing you may not know about the teaching profession is that we are often students ourselves. Throughout the year, we attend countless hours of professional development, trainings, and classes.
This year, many of our teacher in-service days have been focused on writing instruction. I’ve enjoyed implementing some of the new strategies into my classroom, and it’s been so nice to see my students excited about writing. One of my students recently shared, “I am special because I’m a good writer.” Identifying himself as a writer was such an encouragement to me because, as a kid, I never saw myself as a writer.
At times, I still struggle calling myself a writer. In fact, at our one of recent trainings, it came up that I’m a blogger. Our instructor said, “Oh, so you’re a writer.” I was so hesitant and said, “I guess so.” Others in the room spoke up and said, “Yes, she’s a writer.”
Sometimes we need others to help us see the gifts we have.
Words of encouragement can turn doubts into confidence.
Why have I been hesitant to call myself a writer? A few weeks ago, I was looking through some childhood scrapbooks, and I came across a paper that was folded. I opened it up and saw the results of my 9th grade proficiency tests. Back then, these were the tests you had to pass in order to graduate. The first thing I saw on the paper was that I had failed the writing portion of the proficiency test. Yep. I failed.
For an overachieving, straight-A student, this was not only shocking at the time, but it was embarrassing. It also caused me to doubt myself as a writer.
But now, looking back at that failing test grade, I laugh. I laugh because something I failed at is now one of my strengths. Ironic, isn’t it?
I wish I could go back and tell my 9th grade self:
That failing score may have shaken my confidence, but I kept writing anyways. I’m so thankful I did, because I would later discover that writing gave me a safe place to express my thoughts.
Writing helped me regain my voice, and it would also help me encourage others to use their voices.
Hearing my students call themselves writers makes me smile. After all these years, I can finally say, “I’m a writer too.”
How has writing impacted my life? Check out these blogs:
Pages of Love
A Blog About Blogging
The Reasons I Write
*** This blog originally appeared on the Motherless Daughters Ministry website.
There are certain moments in time that change our lives forever. For me, one of those moments was when I learned my mom had passed away.
It was eight years ago, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. I remember waking up at 12:40 a.m. to my phone ringing and talking to one of my sisters. I listened as she told me about our mom’s final moments. I remember hanging up the phone and laying in bed for hours…going between moments of shock (did I just imagine that phone call?), moments of anger (why didn’t God allow me to be there?), and moments of feeling completely devastated.
My mom had battled breast cancer for 9 years, and while deep down I knew her time on earth was coming to an end, in that moment I learned that the thought of losing someone is very different than actually losing someone.
At the age of 26, I became a motherless daughter.
Motherless daughters share a special bond. Recently, I was reading the book, Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships, by Lisa-Jo Baker, and within the first few pages she shared that she became a motherless daughter at the age of 18.
While her book focuses on how to create and keep lasting friendships, Lisa-Jo Baker also shares how her friends supported her after her mother’s death. I saw myself in part of her story.
Lisa-Jo’s first phone call after her mom passed away was to a friend. My first phone call was also to a friend.
A few weeks before my mom passed away, one of my closest friends told me to call her whenever I got “the call.” She didn’t want me to drive myself back home alone. She said she would drive. She wanted to go with me.
My friend followed through on her offer. After I called her, she dropped everything for me. She left work, packed her bags, and before I knew it, she was at my apartment, with food in hand, and her adorable dog. We had a quick lunch, and then she drove me to my hometown, which was 4.5 hours away, so that I could be with my family.
It was the longest car ride of my life, and even though my heart was broken, I felt incredibly loved by my friend (and her adorable dog who sat on my lap the whole time).
In Never Unfriended, Lisa-Jo Baker says, “Maybe the most intimate, radical thing we can do for our friends is to show up.”
Losing my mom helped me understand the truth in this statement.
I felt loved when my friend showed up to drive me home. I felt loved when my former teaching mentor (who I hadn’t seen in years), showed up at my mom’s visitation. She drove an hour just to give me a hug. I felt loved when 7 of my friends/co-workers showed up at my mom’s funeral. Most of them had never met my mom, yet they drove 4.5 hours to comfort me.
In the midst of my grief, God revealed His love for me through my friends.
I learned that friends make sacrifices.
Friends put others’ needs in front of their own.
Friends are willing to share your grief so you don’t have to walk through the darkness alone.
The hardest phone call of my life allowed me to experience the beautiful gift of friendship.
I’m so thankful my friends showed up for me. Who will you show up for today?
About thirteen years ago, I moved to the Cincinnati area to begin my teaching career. I didn’t know a single person in Cincinnati, yet I felt called to move here….4.5 hours away from my family and friends. Pursuing your dreams sometimes will require you to do things you never expected.
For the first time, I was living on my own, in an unfamiliar place, and I didn’t know anyone. It was scary, but it was also exciting. I had a chance to make a fresh start. Being the new girl isn’t easy, though, especially when you’re an introvert like me. The more I took initiative, stepped outside my comfort zone and introduced myself to someone new, the easier it became. Before long, I quickly made many new friends.
But I soon realized that making friends is different than being a friend.
Social media wants us to believe that friendship is just a click away. With one click, we can become friends (which feels great), but just as easily, we can unfriend someone (which feels not so great).
We are led to believe that our worth is linked to the number of friends/followers/likes we have.
We have hundreds or thousands of online friends and multiple social media accounts, yet struggle with loneliness. Why is this?
In her new book, Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships, Lisa-Jo Baker reminds us,
“You are necessary. You are not invisible. You are named and seen, and please don’t erase your relevance because you think you’re not relevant to the people you pass by on a screen.” (p.32-33)
The truth is, we were created for deep relationships. Our online interactions must be balanced with real-life connections.
You might quickly make a friend, but being a friend is intentional. It takes time. And it involves risk….especially if you’ve been hurt by a friend before (In her book, Lisa-Jo Baker shares about overcoming Friendship PTSD).
Never Unfriended is a guide about how to create lasting friendships:
“So, what can you do to find safe, loving, engaged friends whom you can trust never to unfriend you? Become radically invested in the people around you. Take the initiative and become that kind of friend first.” (p.82-83)
I love this advice, and have found it to be true in my own life.
Lisa-Jo Baker shares that a lasting friend: encourages, forgives, assumes the best, celebrates, helps carry sadness, is trustworthy, and is willing to let others see his/her real self (including the messy moments). Most importantly, a lasting friend shows up….in the good times and the tough times.
She also talks about the importance of maintaining healthy boundaries and reminds us that no human will fill the craving our soul has for connection…only God can do that.
If you’re looking for practical ways to develop deeper friendships, I would encourage you to read Never Unfriended.
Friendship is a valuable gift. Be a friend to someone today.
I'm an ordinary introvert who loves an extraordinary God.