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.

It’s your breath

Have you ever noticed when you hear a word for the first time, or learn a new word, that it seems like you hear that word a lot more soon after? Or when you get a new car, it seems that you see way more of the same model on the road than you ever have before? It’s really about our awareness of something that brings it to our view in a more relevant way, but I think that the way our brains make this happen is pretty fascinating.

Recently I heard a worship song that I know has been around for quite a few years, but when I heard it, it hit me in a new way. Since listening to that song about a month ago, I am certain that I have heard it more in the last thirty days than in the the last ten years. But I believe the reality is that I am more tuned into the message of the song and that I need to hear it right now. I just get so blown away by how that works. However, I don’t think that this song speaking to me so clearly and so often is all about the way my mind is working. I know in my heart that God is at work here. No, I don’t think God is in charge of the K-Love playlist, nor do I think He is creating the worship set at my church. But I do think that He is trying to wreck me with this song by making sure my mind and heart is open to it every time I hear it.

The song is called “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons and Daughters. The chorus of the song has been playing on repeat in my head.

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only

I have heard this song so many times but somehow it is hitting me in an all new way. I have been thinking about His breath in my lungs. That breath is the breath I use to speak to my husband and my children. Those lungs provide the air I use to speak into the lives of my students. His breath in my lungs is how I speak to my colleagues. So, what do my words – carried by the breath He gives me – sound like. Am I pouring out praise with what He has given me? Or are my words harsh, not worthy of the breath He has given me? Is my spirit one of complaining and grumbling, or am I finding ways to be joyful and praise Him in all situations?

Riding in my car I sing this song with all of my heart, and most days it brings me to tears. My prayer is that with every breath I am given by my heavenly Father, that I am pouring out praise. Not only through my words – which can truly speak life into others – but also with my actions. I pray that others see Him at work in my life and that they hear my praises for Him pouring out of me.

I love when I still my mind and soul to take time to see God’s work in every aspect of my life. I know He is always here and that He is always at work. I just have to listen more closely to what He is telling me. Right now, that teaching is coming through the lyrics of a beautiful song that He knew I needed to hear. On repeat.

You might have to look for it

Just this morning, I wrote a blog post about enjoying joy. About appreciating the joy that is to be found around us in our lives. A few hours later I was sitting on the floor of my laundry room overwhelmed to the point of tears. Not tears of joy. These were tears of a momma who was teetering on the edge of hopelessness. Mommin’ ain’t easy. Somedays it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

So there I sat in the floor of my laundry room, surrounded by mountains of clothes (six people create a lot of dirty laundry) feeling like a big fat fraud. Where was my joy now? Didn’t I just post about how joyful life is and how all you have to do is look and find the joy? Now, to be totally transparent, I wasn’t crying about how much laundry I had to do. No, this was not about that. I will not share the details of what caused my meltdown – not because I am trying to hide my “ugly” – but out of respect for the privacy of others involved in the situation. And the situation is not really the point anyway.

The point is about joy. There are some moments where I am not naturally, organically overwhelmed with life’s joy. But that does not mean that it is not present. What it truly means is that I have lost my sight of it, while choosing to focus on the yucky stuff. My perspective shifted from being thankful for all of the good stuff, to wallowing in the muck that threatens to steal my joy. But here’s the thing….I am not at all saying that life should be rosy and rainbows every single day. I know that fact all too well. I think what I am trying to say (I’m discovering it as I type) is that even though life feels like a mess sometimes, and we as humans can feel way too caught up in the chaos, we don’t have to unpack and stay there. We can shift our perspective and choose to be happy in our circumstances. No, we don’t “fake it” and just act like everything is okay so that our friends and neighbors don’t judge us. No, we don’t bury our heads in the sand and not deal with the hard stuff because we want to dance around the house like a Disney princess. We face things, we learn to cope with things, we grow from things – all while we focus our eyes on the good stuff that we can hold on to.

I guess what all of my rambling here really means is that when you find yourself sitting on your laundry room floor crying and feeling like you just might drown – its okay. You are not alone! Just don’t camp out there too long because you might miss out on the goodness that there is out there for you!

Enjoy the Joy

Yesterday morning I began planning my future daughter-in-law’s bridal shower. (I tried out the new stories feature on here and shared that tidbit). My son, Zach and Katie will be married in September of this year. Zach is my oldest and my only son. He has always been a momma’s boy…but now he’s about to outgrow that title and become a husband. A husband to an amazing woman. When he was little I began praying for the woman who would become his wife. I have prayed for this young lady for many, many years. God answered in a BIG way and brought Katie into our world.

As I went through my day yesterday, the plans for the shower were on my mind. Katie has a very keen sense of style, and I want to give her a beautiful shower that matches her style. So all day, I was thinking about ways to create this perfect party. More than once – okay at least a dozen times – I was overwhelmed with emotion and began crying. I would find a picture that inspired the flowers, and then I would cry. I would think about sharing this time with Katie and all of our family, and then I would cry. I envisioned all of the smiles and laughs and pictures of that day, and I would cry.

Initially I was confused about these emotions that were bubbling under the surface. Were they sadness from the feelings of “losing” my son? Were they happy tears at the thought of having this special family time to celebrate Katie as a new member of our family? Did these tears come from a place of worry and anxiety about planning the perfect party for my son’s bride? I thought deeply about these emotions (its just what I do), and sorted them out in my head and in my heart. I think that may some of those tears were from each of the things I had thought, but the overwhelming and overpowering emotion I was feeling was pure JOY.

Joy was what was bubbling up from my head and my heart. There is no other word for what I am feeling as we prepare for my son’s wedding. Joy for the joining not only of two people but of two families! Joy at the thought of my daddy being the one who will perform the ceremony for his grandson and bride. And here’s the thing, joy feels good.

I am sure that as the day approaches for the shower and the ceremony, there will be some times of stress and maybe even some not so joyful emotions. I know that worry and anxiety may set in, but none of that will steal the joy of this very special time for our family!

Small things

One of my favorite things about spring is the return of so many birds to my back patio. I love hearing their joyful chirping early in the morning. I filling the bird feeder and then sitting and watching them come feast. They are like familiar friends who faithfully visit each year. This picture is from last spring, right after I had filled the feeder for the first time in the season. The simple pleasure of watching my feathered friends return each spring feels normal in a world that is anything but normal right now. As I enjoy my spring break at home this year, I am focusing on the small, simple things that bring my heart joy. Filling the feeder and waiting for my friends is one of those things. I’m encouraging each of you to slow down – even for just a moment today – and find joy in the day. Much love!