Margin

I have been thinking a lot lately about the word margin. Most of us probably think of the blank space around the edges of a page when we hear that word. While my recent thoughts on that word have not really been about paper, they do have a lot to do with space. This school year has already been filled with challenges that I had not anticipated. I knew that being in a new building, teaching a new subject with a new teaching partner and more kids in my home room than I have ever had would be an adjustment, but these circumstances have all been accompanied by things that didn’t even know to expect. On top of going back to school, I am in the last month of my Principal Internship and my Master’s program. This has added hours of work and assignments to my work days. And on top of all of that, I am raising three girls (my older two are off the payroll) – two of them teenagers, managing a household and attempting to be a good wife. I point all of this out not to garner pity or to even really complain, but rather to illustrate the absolute lack of margin in my life right now. There is no blank space. And that lack of margin is taking its toll on me.

Margin is defined as “a spare amount or measure…” For me I am feeling that there is just no spare amount of time in my days. Not only that, I am feeling that there is no spare amount of ME left for anything right now. My constant busyness fills my days, but leaves me feeling empty. I know that I have to make room for those things that fill my soul and light a fire in me. I am tired. Bone tired and soul weary.

Even as I type this though, I feel a little spark. I am remembering the little things that bring me joy. Expressing myself through words. Sitting in the stillness of the morning. Hot coffee. Though they may be small things, they are in my margin. I need to cling to them and find room for them as I navigate this busy season. I encourage you to find some space in your life to do the things that make your heart happy. Find your margin.

The day has come

Sitting here in a quiet, empty house, finally taking a few minutes just to breathe. The start of the school year is normally crazy and hectic, but this year – year three of pandemic teaching – has been especially exhausting. On top of the long hours and late nights, I am in the last few weeks of my Master’s program, which means multiple projects and looming deadlines. I have not really been able to take time to process all the emotions that I am feeling about the upcoming weekend.

In just two days, my son will marry his one true love. My baby boy. My firstborn. The one who gave me the title of momma. I am beyond excited and proud of my son and all that he has worked for and achieved. I am thrilled that he has found his lovely bride and will stand before his family and friends on Saturday and vow to share his life with Katie.

I find myself flooded with so many memories as we prepare to celebrate this big day. I think back to the day that we brought Zach home from the hospital. I think about spending every minute of every day of his first months of life. I remember saying to my family that at that point in his life I remembered every day that he’d been in the world. I wanted it to be like that forever. When he began walking and talking he would say the cutest things that I swore I would never forget. When I was pouring his milk he would say “Too nough, mommy.” I have never forgotten that sweet little face sharing his own sweet words.

As he grew older, the days became too many to remember every minute. The busyness of childhood and adolescence felt never ending with the countless practices and homework and uniform washing. Looking back now though, it went by in a blink. I am so very thankful for all of the memories that my son has given me over the years. And while I can’t recall each and every day that I have been blessed to be his momma, I do have so many amazing memories of him growing up. I can so easily recall the summer days when he would play football out in the street with the neighborhood kids, race Big Green Machines up and down the cul-de-sac, and play flashlight tag in the backyard. I have amazing memories of cheering on my son from the stands as he played football with all of his heart. There were out of town baseball tournaments with families who became lifelong friends. And I can never forget all of the mischief that Zach and his best friend since birth, Tyler, found themselves in. Like the time they thought it would be fun to see what happened when they threw grapes (an entire bag) at the ceiling fan. Or the time they thought it would be funny to cut the neighbor’s swings?!? Although I cannot remember every day, I realize that I am blessed with so many memories of being his momma.In 48 hours, my son will start the next phase of his life with his wife! He will begin creating his own memories as they build their new life together. We will spend the weekend celebrating their love and I know that the memories that we create this weekend will be added to the long list of memories that I cherish. So for now, I am enjoying this quiet time of reflection, recalling all of the joy that Zach has brought into my life an eagerly anticipating the weekend because the day has come.

Love is Sweet

This past weekend was one that I have planned for and looked forward too for a long time! On Saturday, I hosted a shower for my soon to be daughter-in-law, Katie. Katie is a lovely, endearing young woman whose sense of style is amazing. She is beautiful inside and out, and my son is head over heels in love with her. We are so very excited to welcome her into our family.

I planned for months for this special day. I wanted to celebrate Katie in the special way she deserved to be celebrated. I will not lie – there were times that I felt very stressed about all of the details, but it was all truly a labor of love. My biggest concern was that I was able to be able to be present in the moment and enjoy the day with all of our family and friends. Thankfully, on the morning of the shower, my closest friend, my girls (including Katie and Cai), and my husband came together to help me bring my vision to reality. When the time came, I was able to enjoy each moment of the shower. I loved meeting Katie’s extended family, spending this special time with my own family, and watching Katie glow as we showered her!

Twenty-three years ago when I had my son, I began praying for his future. I prayed for him to grow in love and to find love. I asked God to bring a woman into his life who would love him in just the way he needed to be loved. All of his life I have prayed for Katie! I was honored to be able to love on her this past weekend. I am so excited for the upcoming wedding this fall, but I am even more excited for the life that Katie and Zach have ahead of them.

God is within her, she will not fall

The last several months have been nothing short of pure chaos. I taught a new grade level this year, after being in 5th grade for six years I moved to 4th grade. Not a giant leap, but still new and different. Teaching through a pandemic provided so many unique challenges – but it will be a year that we will never forget. I am also at the very end of my Masters program – which has consumed so much of my time. My classwork is finished and now I am working through my six-month principal internship. When I finished my last class I felt such relief – until I officially started my internship, when I quickly realized that it was going to be much more work than I had anticipated. And of course, managing a household where six of the seven of us live is always a daunting task week to week.

Lately I have allowed ALL of this busyness to control me and it has truly robbed me of my peace and contentment. My mind is always running – especially at 3am – and I walk around in a state of exhaustion. In my frazzled state I find myself drifting back to the comparison game. I look around and it doesn’t appear to me that any of my mom friends or teacher friends are struggling with life like I am. I see their perfect family posts on instagram and my self-worth shrinks. I know that the part of other people’s lives that I see is their highlight reel – I know this logically – but I still let it get the best of me.

This weekend has been really rough on me, and last night I felt broken. At one point, through my tears, I remember saying to my husband, “I just can’t find any peace. I don’t even know what makes me happy anymore.” As I tossed and turned through the night, I kept hearing those words on repeat. When I woke up this morning, I had a bit of a confetti moment. I’ve been trying so hard to do so much on my own. No wonder everything is so hard. I am not content because I have been relying on my own strength, rather than leaning into God and relying on HIS power in me. I desperately need Him. He is the source of my contentment, my peace, and my joy. Rather than looking to others and comparing myself, I should be looking to God and seeing myself the way He sees me. I am not supposed to be able to “handle” everything on my own. I was created to be in union with my creator as I walk through life. The emptiness that I feel is a God sized gap – just waiting for me to realize it is there for Him.

Today, I am choosing God. I am going to loosen my grip on trying to control everything around me, and open my hands for what God has to give me.

My heart is confident, God. I will sing; I will sing praises with the whole of my being.

Psalm 108:1

Reason to celebrate

Yesterday was such an amazing day of celebration. First and foremost, we celebrated Easter – Resurrection Day! The day the we declare that the tomb was empty, Jesus had risen and in that we find our freedom. We gathered at our house later in the afternoon to hunt Easter eggs and share a meal together. But we also celebrated being together. It had been more than a year since we had broken bread with my parents. We had shared some driveway visits over the last year, and lots of FaceTime calls, but we had not been in the same room for more than 365 days! I had not felt a hug from my mom and daddy for over 12 months!

So we gathered, my parents, Chris’ parents, and our girls. We missed having Zach and Katie, and our siblings and nieces and nephews. And we hope that someday soon we can ALL gather together. But we enjoyed the precious time we did have with those who were able to be together. We laughed. We talked. And we listened. Sometimes we just sat – perfectly content with the silence of each other’s company.

The lesson we will take away is a lesson that many of us have learned through this incredibly challenging year. We learned to not take for granted the time we have with those we love. We learned to take every opportunity to be present with each other. I am so thankful for those lessons.

Waiting for Sunday

It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming. This is phrase has been all over social media this week as we get ready to celebrate Easter the the resurrection of our Lord. This phrase has also been on my mind a lot. It is so powerful. I try to imagine what Jesus’ close friends and followers were feeling on this day – the day between His death and when He rose from the dead. I’m certain they felt a huge sense of hopelessness. They must have felt confused and perhaps even a bit lost. Fear was probably surging through them as they wondered what the last few years had been about. Confusion most likely have them questioning all that they had seen while closely following Jesus and His teachings.

Obviously, I can only speculate on the way Jesus’ friends and followers were feeling. However, I feel like being human, just like them, I can fairly make these assumptions. Thinking about this phrase, “It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming” I understand, to some extent what that waiting feels like. Of course, I cannot fathom in on the same level by any means, but I think that there are some real parallels for me and maybe for you too!

This week for me personally has been especially troubling. I was blindsided by two events – both personally and professionally – and I feel like this week has been my Friday. (Please know that I am not in any way comparing my troubles to Jesus’ death – just drawing a parallel!) Stay with me. When faced with the uncertainty of the week’s news, I have been hit with a mix of so many emotions. Fear of the unknown, hopelessness, confusion, and questions. I’ve wondered why? I’ve asked how? I’ve spent sleepless nights tossing and turning while worry envelops me. Trying to find some peace in all of it, God has gently reminded me that He is in control. He has sweetly whispered to me to remember that Sunday is coming. He’s pulled me closer in the waiting and comforted me with the reminder of the answers that Sunday brought.

In our daily lives, we must remember His faithfulness to His promises. He did not promise a trouble free, worry free, “easy” life. However, He did promise that He is always with us. He did promise that He will never forsake us, nor will He leave us. And when Sunday came, and Jesus walked out of that tomb…well, who can argue with the fulfillment of that promise. God is with us in our waiting.

I don’t know how either of the situations of this week will turn out. I don’t have all of the answers. But I do have ONE answer and it is this. God knows it ALL and He is in it ALL. He is constant and ever-present between our Fridays and our Sundays.

His Love

While mindlessly scrolling through Facebook today, I saw a saying about God’s unconditional love. It was one of those pretty pictures will a sunrise and a fancy script saying. I honestly don’t remember what the whole thing said because I couldn’t get past unconditional love. It’s been on my mind all day. Unconditional love. Without conditions. Without strings. Without hesitation. I think that I take that saying “unconditional love” for granted. I have heard it all my life about the way God loves His children. I almost think it’s one of those churchy phrases that I have listened to so many times that it has lost its power almost. But today, it hit me right in my heart house.

As mere humans, we truly can’t fathom that kind of love. Our society tosses around the word love so very flippantly and loosely that the word is almost tarnished. “Ooohhh, I LOVE your shoes!” Or how many times do we proclaim our love for an actor whom we have never met. And I promise that I have used that word when talking about ice cream (just last night as a matter of fact). But y’all, that unconditional love that comes from our Father is unmatched by anything we know here on Earth. Yes, we love our kids like our Father loves us – that is the closest we could ever come to understanding His love for us. But even then, it’s not exactly the same.

So why did it hit me today like it did? I’m not sure that I know, but I’m fairly certain that God slowed my scroll and stilled my mind long enough to get my attention. This morning I woke up still fighting my annual spring cold, feeling unrested and moderately grumpy. I did not want to get up and go to school. I even said to myself as I slovenly rolled out of bed “I don’t want to adult today. I just can’t.” I was sure that I did not have the energy needed to show up for a room full of 9 year olds. Basically, my attitude sucked. I truly didn’t think I could make it through the day, and I was mad at myself for my attitude. Maybe this is why God needed to get my attention.

His love for me – even with my ugly, early-morning grumblings – doesn’t waiver. When I’m not at my best He loves me – just as much as He does when I’m at my best. When I’m not as loving as I should be, He still loves me. When I stumble and lose my way, His love remains steadfast and strong. Why? How could He possibly STILL love me after all of my shortcomings and grumblings and doubts and fears. Because He can…Because HE IS LOVE.

There are so many worship songs that attempt to describe this love in many different ways. His love is extravagant, overwhelming, never-ending, reckless. His love never fails. It is unending. His love awakens. He loves me, this I know. And all of these songs are beautiful proclamations of our Father’s love. But I’m not sure that His unconditional love can fully be described and understood by us until we truly believe in our hearts that love is who God is. And we are His beloved. What if tomorrow we take carry that title “beloved” with us all day? How would that change the way we love others? How would our self-talk change if we started it with the name “Beloved”?

I’m so thankful for a God who listens to my heart when I don’t even know the words for what I need. I’m so thankful for His nudges (and at times, smack upside my head) to slow down and find Him at my center. Most of all, I am so thankful for His unconditional love.

My teacher heart

I have said from the very start of this school year that our students are going to remember it for the rest of their lives, so let’s make those memories amazing! Well this past week, my students did just that for me. I teach fourth grade. In all I have 60 students between the three homerooms. We have asked so much of these babies this year and they have risen to the occasion better than some (many) adults I know. They came back to a classroom setting that looked very different than any they had experienced in their short academic career. They came back after the trauma of missing the last part of the prior year and essentially living in a lockdown during a global pandemic. When they walked through our doors they couldn’t see our smiles and we couldn’t see theirs. They were not seated next to an elbow buddy or at a group table, but rather on their own little island that was at least 3 feet away from all classmates. Yet through all of that we have built a classroom community like none other I have ever had. They are kind to each other. They feel safe in our little room. They are caring and sweet and so very funny.

This past week my students had to spend two days taking our state standardized tests. Yet nothing about this year has been anywhere close to standard. The state felt it was the right thing to do to add just a little more pressure on these little minds by having them sit for tests that they may not be prepared for. It seems the state must have forgotten that these babies missed an entire quarter of the prior year and while we worked so hard to “close the gap” (I would be fine if I never heard this tag line ever again) we need more time. We didn’t need more testing. I don’t need test data to tell me what my kiddos need. I can tell you that from having spent every day with them since August.

Obviously, I did not let my students feel my disgust over them having to be tested. We chose to call it a “Celebration of Learning” – our chance to show next year’s teachers how hard we had worked all year. I was absolutely blown away by how my kids showed up and worked so hard. They made this teacher so proud. As I babbled and gushed about how proud I was to them when they were finished, one of them asked “Mrs. Taylor, is your teacher heart happy?”

Yes…this teacher heart is so very happy. I cannot express how much I love this group of kids. They make every day brighter in an all too dark world. And while I still completely disagree with the state’s decision to test them, I am celebrating with them for all that they have learned. And all that they have taught me.