I do not make New Year’s resolutions. I am horrible at them. They are expectations that I rarely (never) meet – which just leaves me feeling bad (worse) about myself. It only took me about 35 years to figure this out. Since coming to the realization that resolutions are not my thing, Brian and I decided to resolve to “be better” by focusing our lives and efforts on a particular word for the entire year. That exercise proved to be very rewarding and actually kept us focused on a goal without leaving us feeling like failures after a few months (and by months I mean days). This year the word I chose is PERSPECTIVE. I wrote a blog this past summer about that word and when it came time to choose a word for the whole year – it really made sense to me. I recently heard a sermon by one of my new favorite pastors to listen to (Matt Chandler) in which the pastor basically called out those of us who compare ourselves to others. (Yes, I was one of the “us”). How many of us can justify our selfish actions, our hateful words, or our sinful behavior by comparing ourselves to someone who happens to be “worse” than us. Well of course I’m going to look like a champ if I compare myself to someone whose behavior is apparently “worse”. But that certainly doesn’t make me into the person God wants me to be – just because I’m not “as bad” as someone else. It can work the opposite way as well. We can compare ourselves to someone who seemingly has it all together and has a perfect wonderful life with perfect kids, no problems, beautiful home (do you see where I’m going with this)…and feel really bad about ourselves. It can wreak havoc on us. Our peace and contentment really come when we have a healthy perspective on things. And as believers, our peace and contentment comes from our savior. How does Jesus see us? What would his perspective be? If we begin to view life through His lens, how does it change our perspective on things? This word has come to mean so much to me as I meet people and learn about myself. There is no way to wallow in my problems when I am worshipping next to a recovering heroin addict. That’s perspective. I can’t possibly continue to worry about finances and budget when I have friends who are currently homeless. I believe that Jesus’ perspective on “sinners” in His time was revolutionary. He didn’t see the woman at the well the way the Pharisees would have seen her. He saw her through the perspective of love…not condemnation. As I embark on another year as a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, a wife, a mom, a teacher, and a woman, I know that IF I am able to keep things in perspective – not MY way, but God’s way – I know that I will be blessed and that God will open my eyes to see some beautiful things in 2014.
This past year was my first year as a classroom teacher. A few years ago I decided to follow my heart and went back to school to become a teacher. I taught at a public school of choice (charter school) in Dayton. All teachers know that the first year is a rough one…and mine was no exception. I was in over my head…teaching 5 grade levels, 6 different bells, no plan period, very limited resources, and extremely challenging students. For the first few months I cried every day. Every day drained me of my passion for teaching and made me question my decision. The workload was overwhelming, but more than that…these kids needed so much more than what I had to give. I needed to be a social worker, a guidance counselor, a therapist, a probation officer, and a parent. I could not relate to the things they were dealing at their young ages. Mid-year, I had decided that there was no way that I could do this another year. I was completely drained physically and emotionally. I just couldn’t do it. But then something changed. I’m not even sure that I know exactly when that change took place…but I know it did. I began to not try and “fix” them…to stop trying to save the world. I simply began to listen to them….whenever and whatever. I learned that for the most part many of them just need to be heard. They need someone to listen to them and to validate their thoughts and feelings. Once I changed, I started to see a change in them. We began to develop a trust and confidence in each other. And once this trust and bond formed, big things started to happen. By the end of the school year, I couldn’t imagine NOT coming back to my school and my students. Looking back, I’m quite certain that I learned a lot more than my students did in that first year.