Friday, May 15, 2015

In the Right Place at the Right Time

Today was no ordinary day. I was blessed to spend a good portion of the day with both of my children, and I was surprised with a gift from an afternoon visitor.

In 1992, I went back to teaching after being at home for almost five years with my son. I had taught at two middle schools in the same district previously, and now had two position offers in that same district. I was offered the choral position in the middle school where I last taught, and offered the same in another middle school where the choral program had sadly deteriorated for lack of stability.

I could have chosen the program I had already built back up, but if I had to step back into the classroom, I wanted to help build another program in desperate need.

I love a challenge, and boy was this ever a challenge.

I can honestly say I had never been around so many needy, unruly, and disrespectful students, especially my 8th graders. They had pretty much run over the last two teachers (both in one year) who had graciously stepped in to keep the program afloat. Not all, but some thought they ran the show, but little did they know that by the end of that first year, those who chose to stay with me, were on their way to being a part of something they could be proud of. It was a very tough year, but we made it!

It probably helped me in that I was flexible and could work with pretty much anybody. The first four years I taught, I never had the same principal two years in a row. Every year I had to learn a new personality, each arriving with their own ideas of how to teach and reach the middle school child. The next three years proved to be the same. Three more principals in five years. What had I gotten myself into? But by the end of that 5 year span, the students were loving chorus and together we had built a choral program to be proud of.

Today, unexpected affirmation of making the right choice all those years ago showed up on my front doorstep. A former Assistant Principal from this particular school had called earlier to see if he could drop something by.

Now this wasn't the first time I have seen him since I left teaching. He actually returned to the classroom when my son entered middle school. Turner had the privilege of learning in his science classroom all 3 middle school years because each year, this incredible teacher followed them to the next grade level to teach the same group of students science. That unique bunch of kids adored him and not only took away great science knowledge, but learned a lot of life lessons from him. They were such a tight knit group that he and his wife invited this crazy crew to celebrate two big birthdays with him. One of which we hosted at our home.

He stood at my front door with a gift, a cigar box he spent hours decorating with his own hands, and with such detail and thoughtfulness, even using his own photography and choosing my favorite flower as the theme. He also gave me note cards with his own photographs of nature numbered and signed.

As we sat in my kitchen, he told me about the very rough spell he went through during his time as Assistant Principal. Some of his story I knew, but not everything. He shared that many in the education field changed their demeanor towards him, but that I never did. He said I continued to be myself and accepted him with all of his faults and flaws, and for that he was truly grateful. I knew he loved the students and that they were his heart. I just tried to show the love of Christ to all I came in contact with.

He always supported my ideas even if they were a little out-of-the-box sometimes and said I could always find ways to spend my budget. He even wrote a grant for me to start a Performing Arts class for the art of clowning! (I had a room full of class clowns and this was the perfect outlet to hone in on their "skills".) From writing skits to properly putting on clown make-up, to juggling and performing at community events, that class drew kids in to participate in a performing art form when music wasn't "their thing."

I have always thought of this AP as one of the smartest persons I've ever worked with or known, and I was truly honored he took the time to listen to me as a teacher who wanted to reach the students who seemed unreachable. He even told me of how he observed my response to other teachers when they complained about the "noise" coming from the chorus room. He said I never responded negatively. I just got in there and did my job well in a rather terribly challenging classroom set-up.

He's always called me Mel, but today, he called me friend. He said I've always been a good friend to him, and his gift was just his way of telling me how much he appreciated me sticking by him through the years, especially during the really hard ones.

Many times we don't know the whys about when, where, and how God directed us, but sometimes He gives us these special moments, precious glimpses into His plan as to how He used us. These glimpses into what lies behind strengthens our faith to move ahead with the confidence that we can trust He will direct us to the right place at the right time.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

My Pleasure,

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Refreshing Get-a-way

Just a little over a week ago, Rick and I were gifted with a get-a-way retreat for some spiritual and physical refreshment with Reclaiming Hearts Ministry. 

This sweet gift couldn't have come at a more appropriate and needed time in our lives. Rick and I are constantly serving, discipling, and teaching God's Word, but we are not often spiritually fed at the same time, in the same venue.

The simple combination of sugar sand, salt water, and the soft ocean breeze caused us to breathe a little deeper, walk a little slower, pray a little longer, and smile a little bigger.

Outside the door of our retreat homes were commuter bikes for our enjoyment. Not having ridden a bike in a long time, we were a little nervous, but excited to get on these and explore the 
Watercolor/ Seaside Beach, Florida area. With no humidity, highs in the upper 70's to low 80's, 
the weather was absolutely perfect for biking every single day, so we biked - a lot!

Our real deep refreshment was provided during the meat of the retreat which we trekked to and from on these crunchy, pebble paths to another beautiful resort home. 

We gathered here with about 40 others and were powerfully poured into, prayed over, 
and ministered to. When you serve in ministry as we do and are usually the ones doing the pouring into, etc..., these moments are treasures as we sat on the receiving end this time around.

As we sought the face of God, opening our hearts for His replenishing, not only was the ocean  crystal clear, but the Word of God refreshingly and clearly washed over our souls as truth was taught unashamedly in an intimate, transparent atmosphere by author Denise Hildreth Jones and the Reclaiming Hearts ministry team. 

Our much needed time together was filled with worship through music, teaching, private journaling, reading God's Word, and in conversation over meals and on excursions, all centered around the Lord Jesus Christ. We were served with grace, and loved on extravagantly.

We all need to take time for renewal - away from the everyday obligations of family, church, and community, and allow God to replenish, nourish and strengthen our souls so we can in turn live out our purpose with His energy and His passion. We were presented with an opportunity to do just that, and we're so grateful we received it with open hands.

One of my favorite spots was the Sundog Book store in Seaside.

We ate lunch one afternoon at a little burger joint in Seaside. 
(Here's a pic of Rick's $11.00 Philly cheese steak sandwich, and that didn't include fries! 
You, who know him well, are laughing right now aren't you?)

The Seaside Chapel

Be still and know I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

God lavished His goodness, grace and mercy on us as we held open our hearts to Him to do with as He saw fit. We cried, we laughed, we sang, we worshiped, we loved, we made new friends.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the gift of retreat. For time to be still and know You more. You chose to retreat many times during your ministry on earth to replenish your weary body and to seek Your Father's heart. What a gift from One who understands the depleting of our spirits as we live to love deeply, make disciples, and minister wholeheartedly. You are an amazing God!  
Bless the Lord, oh my soul!

My Pleasure,