I previously blogged about my adventures into the world of Bible Art Journaling. Since my initial blog, I have bought more art supplies and have been drawing/doodling on watercolor paper. My new favorite discovery: gelatos. Before, I just thought gelato was something you eat (and I love eating gelato…especially sea salt caramel gelato ) , but now I’ve had fun using gelatos to add color to my drawings.
A few days ago, I did something I never thought I would do – I bought an art journaling Bible. Since I’m someone who typically draws stick figures and labels anything I try to draw, I found a Bible that made this purchase a little less intimidating. I ended up buying a Beautiful Word edition. It already has 500 verses illustrated in color and then lots of space for you to add your own artwork/notes. Thanks to Amazon’s free same day shipping in my area, I had it in my hands that same night.
It’s funny to think that as a kid, I would occasionally underline something in my Bible with pencil. Now, as an adult, in my Bible I’m using watercolors, colored pencils, art pens, gelatos, and washi tape. Before, I was simply reading God’s word. Now, I’m interacting with it, and the truths are sinking in so much deeper.
Last night, I was praying and told God that sometimes I feel forgotten. He quickly brought to mind the verse, “I have engraved you on the the palms of my hands.” I then looked it up in my Bible (Isaiah 49:16) and read the verse right before that - “I will not forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15).
I then pictured the hole in Jesus’ hand being surrounded by my name and the names of family members and friends. I knew that this was an image I needed to capture.
As I was drawing/adding color, I was listening to Pandora radio (All Sons & Daughters Station) and the song “Before the Throne of God Above” starting playing (by Shane and Shane). The only two lines I remember from the whole song are: “My name is graven on His hands. My name is written on His heart.” When I heard those lyrics, I literally stopped drawing, smiled, and said, “Really, God?”
Moments like these remind me that God listens to our prayers, and He wants us to be completely honest with how we feel. He also longs to encourage us. Sometimes He speaks through scripture. Sometimes He speaks through others. Sometimes He speaks through a song. And sometimes He might even speak through gelatos and watercolors.
I gave these sunglasses as a gift to my students. You can download “My Future’s So Bright I Have to Wear Shades” for free by clicking here.
I just finished my 12th year of teaching. In some ways, it seems like I started teaching a few years ago, but then I remember that my first group of students graduated last year. That makes me feel old.
In elementary school, by the last day, our classrooms have become like a close family. We have spent the past year working together, helping one another, learning how to be good friends and how to resolve conflicts, laughing, and even dancing (thanks to gonoodle.com). I spend more time with my students and co-workers than I do my own family.
At my school, on the last day, it’s tradition for the entire staff to line up outside to wave goodbye to the kids. The buses all leave at the same time in a single-file line while honking their horns. The bus windows are down, and as the buses pull away, hundreds of kids are all waving back while shouting the names of their teachers. For once, we, as teachers, feel like celebrities.
At this point, many teachers’ eyes fill with tears of joy…not just because summer is starting, but because seeing our students express their love back to us reminds us that all of our hard work throughout the year was worth it.
You would think that all the kids would be happy as they leave for summer break, but every year I see kids waving back with tears running down their faces. This is when tears of joy mix with tears of sadness, and the last day becomes bittersweet.
It’s at this moment I’m reminded that not all kids look forward to summer break. At school, we have tried to create a safe environment where our kids’ basic needs are taken care of and where they are encouraged every day.
Our classrooms have become like a family, and summer break means our family will no longer be together. For many kids, this can tough, but it’s even more difficult for those kids with challenging home situations. These are the kids I think about the most over the summer. Even after our students leave our classrooms, we continue to think about them and care about them.
While I look forward to summer, I always miss the kids. As teachers, we love our students and do everything we can to set them up for success. Then, they move on and we trust that the next teacher will love and care for them just as much.
Today, was very bittersweet, especially since I will be moving to a new building next year. There were many tears and hugs, and as one of my students left he said to me, "I will always love you." It was the sweetest moment. I responded, "I will always love you too." That was the perfect way to end the last day of school.
Two of the busiest times for teachers are the beginning and end of the school year. With only a few days of school left, my “to-do” list is still pretty long. I’ve always been a list maker. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment to cross something off my list when I’m done. I’m also a big fan of Post-It notes and putting reminders in my phone. Those are my secrets to staying so organized.
The other day, as I was adding more items to my “to-do” list and writing out reminders on Post-It notes, God reminded me of the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42).
Mary and Martha were 2 sisters, with 2 different personalities, but Jesus loved them both equally.
Martha focused on doing things for Jesus.
Mary focused on spending time with Jesus.
Martha spoke to Jesus.
Mary listened to Jesus.
Martha was filled with worry.
Mary was filled with peace.
Martha was focused on many things.
Mary was focused on one thing.
Martha focused on temporary things.
Mary focused on something (someone) eternal.
The past few months, I have been Martha….busy at school, volunteering, going from one group or activity to the next, and spending time with friends. I love all of these things, and all of these things are good, but I haven't been spending as much time with God. He is the One who I need to spend time with the most.
My natural tendency is to be like Martha, but I long to be more like Mary. It seems that many other people can relate too, otherwise author Joanna Weaver wouldn’t have written a book called Having a Mary Heart In a Martha World (which I recommend, and I obviously need to re-read).
Whether we are running around like Martha, or being still like Mary, God loves us the same. However, we can easily become so focused on doing things for God that it takes away from spending quality time with Him. When our “to-do” list doesn’t include time for the One who created us, then we know we need to refocus our priorities.
Mary, sitting still at Jesus’ feet, was choosing what was “better.” We will never regret time spent with Jesus.
The good news is, even when we don’t choose what is “better,” we need to remember that God has chosen us. Maybe I need to write that on my next Post-It note.
When you left this world
You took a part of me
But now you’re home
Now you’re free
And I’m learning how
To get by
Without you by my side
I think of you
Every single day
Your absence has left me
I feel incomplete
I must confide
Without you by my side
Holding on to memories
Making new ones without you
Reminds me that time is a gift
Love should motivate all we do
Look for blessings in the moments
That so quickly pass us by
I miss you by my side
Even when my heart feels broken
It still has love for you
God has given me peace
And strength to continue
The promise of eternity
Brings hope to my life
One day we’ll be reunited and you’ll be by my side
Until then I live in the space between
Trusting God to carry me
On this journey
Filled with love and memories
The longer we’re apart
The more I realize
What a blessing it was to have you by my side
I wrote this to my mom, who passed away after a 9 year battle with breast cancer. To read more about my journey of mother loss, click here.
Since I was a kid, I have always wanted to be a teacher. I actually come from a family of teachers (8 other family members have taught at some point in their lives). Going into the teaching profession was an easy decision for me, even though I knew it wasn’t an easy profession.
When I was in college, one of my education professors told us, “Kids don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.” This has always stuck with me, and the longer I teach the more I realize how true it is.
I’ve learned that many times, what my students need the most is not found in any textbook. It’s not found on my pacing guide, and it’s definitely not found on a standardized test.
That’s because what my students need the most is to know that they are loved unconditionally…that someone cares about them and believes in them.
When this happens, they realize that their worth is not linked to their performance, and they feel safe to take risks and make mistakes. I always tell my students, “It’s ok to make mistakes. That’s how we learn.” Then, progress starts to happen, their confidence begins to grow, and they start believing in themselves. Once students realize that they are capable of meeting expectations, they will often exceed expectations.
For me, seeing my students make progress reminds me why I teach. It reminds me why the long days and stacks of papers to grade are worth it.
Over the years, I have received many gifts from my students and their families. If you’re looking to give your child’s teacher a gift, I highly recommend a handwritten “thank-you” note/card. These simple notes of appreciation are so meaningful. I have saved these notes over the years and have often pulled them out to re-read them, especially on those challenging days when I need some encouragement.
While I love thank-you notes, my most memorable gift came from a student four years ago. It was during Teacher Appreciation Week. I had received a few gift cards throughout the week (teachers also love these), but this student came in one morning with a huge smile on her face and gave me this gift:
I can honestly say I had never received a gift like this before: a small blown up bunny, an apple, a pen (that didn’t work) with a hair tie wrapped around it, a broken rubber band, a plastic bracelet, a seashell, and 3 smarties.
Yes, this was my most memorable gift, because at the same time it broke my heart, yet it encouraged me. Why? This student didn’t have much, but she gave what she had, and she gave with excitement! She knew that I cared about her, and in return, she wanted to find a way to show that she cared about me.
This random gift reminded me that the most important part of teaching is not found in any lesson plan, but it’s helping our students understand that they are loved. Our lessons become meaningful when students realize their lives have meaning. And that is why teaching can be so challenging, yet also so rewarding.
I'm an ordinary introvert who loves an extraordinary God.