With this school year being done, I am taking time to reflect. This has been the hardest year yet encompassed with so much heavy spiritual warfare. Not only that, but I am ending my chapter of teaching within Cincinnati Public Schools and with the ending not being “pretty”, it makes finding closure just a little bit more challenging.
On on hand, I could call it a bad year. When I share the story of what happened, people are in awe. Their jaws drop and they can’t believe all that my co-teacher and I endured.
On the other hand, I can’t help but feel grateful to God. He was so evidently with me the whole year. He carried me through, encouraged me, and brought me out on the other side protected, stronger, more resilient, and with the blessing of a new chapter I’m starting…
As I’ve been combing through my thoughts and feelings, one thing I know for sure is that I have decided to refuse to call this year a “bad” year. Was is hard? Absolutely! But God was present and I grew in so many areas, which I believe was His will for me.
I sit here processing all that has happened not only this school year, but within my last few years at Cincinnati Public. I don’t know where to begin, so I am starting here. This blog, while hopefully a source of encouragement to you, also serves as a way for me to talk to God and process what He is teaching me.
One of the ways God has given me peace with starting to look back through all of this is with this song. This song is very special to me right now and I hope you will take moment to listen to even just the first 2 minutes…
I’m so comforted by the words of that song. I am worn down and in need of a real rest. It brings me great peace to know that God desires me to be myself and that He wants me to share what’s on my heart…He already knows it all! While other people don’t know what I’ve been through this year, God knows where I am as well as what I’ve been through and what I’ve seen. He wants me to release my burdens to Him from all these heavy days.
Another way I usually process each school year is looking back over my scripture wall. Every year I fill up a wall in my classroom by my desk with scriptures. This wall serves as an important reminder to me of the encouragement God gives me each day to press on. In the morning when I felt led to, I would write a verse on a little notecard and place it on my desk for a few days or even weeks at times then I’d tape the notecard up on my wall. By the end of the year my wall is full and I take all the verses down and read back over them. It’s such a beautiful reminder of how God helped me and brought me through and it always helps me to process and reflect on what God taught me each school year.
This year was no different in that regard. In the mornings I wrote my verses out, put them on my desk, and each one again ended up on my wall. By the end of the year my wall was full, but there was one problem…
The last few weeks of the school year there was a sub in my room so when I went to clean it out, naturally I was worried about what the room would look like. My main concern though, was my verses. I told myself that as long as my verses were there, everything else I could deal with. It was all replaceable expect those verses. So imagine my horror when I walked into my classroom and stared, jaw-dropped, at a BLANK wall. My heart sank.
I immediately started to look for the verses hoping the sub had put them somewhere. I was so frustrated, wondering why someone would even take those down! After about 10-15 minutes of searching, no luck.
The janitor came into my classroom and we laughed as he told me he tried to tell the sub how neat I keep my room, but that clearly that didn’t matter to her. I told him about my verses and how upset I was about them being missing. After a while he left and I was left to continue to pick up the pieces and pack all my stuff up to have my entire classroom out of the building by the end of the day.
But God had a surprise in store for me…
About 30 minutes later, he came back into the room with a stack of cards in his hand. He had dug through the trash and found my verses!!! I was disheartened that someone had thrown them away when they held so much value in my eyes, but I was so happy to have them back in my ownership!
Now that I have the verses and have been able to read back through them, I wanted to share some of my verses and notecards from this year that looking back mean even more to me now. I also want to share some of the lessons I am taking with me from my time teaching at Cincinnati Public Schools as I now transition to teaching at West Clermont. My hope is that not only encourages me as I close the door and look ahead, but that it could encourage you too in whatever season you are in!
With that being said, here are some of the things I learned this year…
-Pressure truly does refine us…God uses our struggles to help us to grow and to look to Him and know He is with us while we struggle
-God doesn’t intend for me to live a life of fear. He desires to give me joy and peace and good things. I won’t let fear overtake me! I will pray and foster the fruits of the Spirit in my heart.
-It’s a gift to breathe…I often need to re-center my focus and my thoughts on God, giving my worries and anxieties to Him through prayer moment by moment. I will calm my racing thoughts so I can hear God over everything else. It’s okay to say no to things, especially when you feel you need space or time to be a peaceful person/presence again
-Discipline is a GIFT we give to our students. To be noticed and corrected in a SAFE place is a gift and something God calls us to do for them
-God is with me and God is for me through it all!
-You always have a choice in how you see & respond to all situations…it is okay and often necessary to take time before responding or deciding what to do
-My faith is a shield! The Lord is my refuge…I look to Him at all times for whatever I need or am lacking!
-God sometimes sends us into dark places to be a light in the darkness. This doesn’t mean it will be easy or that everyone will like us. In fact, many will hates us just as they hated and rejected Him too
-I am allowed to stick up for myself and to have boundaries when I feel unsafe
-People WILL misunderstand you and that’s okay. Look to the people who know you best for advice and wisdom but ultimately look to God for affirmation
-Your obedience to God is more important that your reputation with people
-God sometimes calls us to do risky/uncomfortable things in order to build our confidence, faith, and trust in Him
-God can do a LOT with a LITTLE…even when I feel inadequate, the power of the Holy Spirit within me can and will complete the work
-I can have peace at ALL times, no matter the situation!! I have a choice in what thoughts I choose to entertain whether it’s the truth or lies.
-I get my strength and encouragement from the Lord, whether it’s a verse or a song, He is always there to comfort, guide, lead, and help me
On one of the notecards early on in the year I wrote this: “Wade into the darkness of loss, pain, despair, and unrest to sow seeds of hope and seeds of light in the darkness.”
Cincinnati Public Schools, being an inner-city district has many students facing loss, uncertainty, poverty, and pain in their lives at home. Little did I know when I wrote that out just how much darkness, pain, and unrest this year would hold!
On another notecard I wrote out Job 23:10-12 which I think also sums up this year and my experience within Cincinnati Public as a whole well…
10 “But he knows where I am going.
And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.
11 For I have stayed on God’s paths;
I have followed his ways and not turned aside.
12 I have not departed from his commands,
but have treasured his words more than daily food.
This year brought a lot of testing! Testing, as the Bible says, brings about character and endurance!
For me to call my years at Cincinnati Public a “failure” because they were challenging would be doing a great disservice to all that God did through me and in me while I was there. I read these quotes the other day that hit home for me in describing my experience over the last few years…
Another quote I recently read said this…“The win is not about coming in 1st, but in finishing the race.”
I choose to claim my years within Cincinnati Public a win because God taught be so much in these years! Did my students score perfectly on all their tests? No! Did they have perfect behavior every day? No way Jose! BUT I chose to show up each and every day, to press on to what God called me to do, and to lean in to what He was teaching me through it all…and THAT is a win!
Through the hard times, I am closer to the Lord than I’ve ever been before and I am forever grateful for this challenging experience for that reason alone!
While I’d like to say that after I write this blog I can close this chapter and move on, I know in my heart that is not true. There is a lot to work through, but there is no greater person than God that I’d rather walk through all of this with! I am thankful that he offers me grace, that He leads me, and that in Him I can find true rest, peace, and healing.
I will press on with my teaching career, going to this new place God has called me to. I am excited for a new beginning and a promised fulfilled that God is doing a NEW thing in my life. I will bring all the lessons, the good, bad, easy, hard, and ugly that I learned while at Woodford Elementary.
I find comfort and wisdom in these words, which will be the first verse on my wall at West Clermont as I embark on this next journey…My prayer for you is that you would lean into whatever God is doing your life too. He IS doing something!