To All The Teachers and Students Heading Back to School

After six months of navigating COVID-19, and a sudden pivot to at-home learning last March, this week in Canada some are returning to school. There are a host of new rules being implemented, and I suspect this stirs up a diverse mixture of emotions in both students and teachers alike. It’s always a little anxiety-provoking when navigating unknowns.

I wanted to send along some encouragement to every teacher and student this fall, whether you are learning at home or in an actual classroom. This new normal may take some adjusting to and you may not get everything right. Things won’t be perfect, mistakes will be made, but despite the challenges I believe you will beautifully rise and adjust to the new circumstances.

At my daughter’s school, the children are required to wear masks all day and there are numerous new protocols. There is certain courage that is required amid all this change, both for the students and educators. It’s because of this, I wanted to write a few words in the form of a blessing to cheer you on.

Fall Blessing to Teachers and Students

This fall, as you navigate new circumstances, may you have all you need in every situation. May your mind and soul be still, free from worry and anxiety, and may you feel God’s presence and peace surrounding you amid any uncertainty. May you be enfolded by God’s love and care, knowing that He will never leave you or forsake you throughout anything you face.

When things are difficult and you feel discouraged, may you turn to God’s ever-open arms of comfort. When there is a decision to be made and you feel uncertain, may He give you much-needed wisdom and guidance. When you feel unsteady or make a misstep, may you feel His arms surrounding you and providing stability. When you feel confused or lost, may He help you navigate your way.

May you be filled with patience for those around you who, like you, are doing their best to navigate the newness and who may at times grow weary of it all. May you offer compassion and kindness to those in your midst and freely extend the grace we each so desperately need.

May you walk in God’s rich joy ever at your disposal. May any feelings of uncertainty or fear be replaced with poise and peace. May you have an overflow of each to give back to others, aiding them in their fearful moments. May you sprinkle hope—like well-watered seeds springing up all around—that yields rich deposits of beauty.

“Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!” (1 Peter 4:8)

Bless you this fall, teachers, students, and home educators, and throughout your entire school year. May you stay healthy and well. Be assured that you have everything you need in Christ.

Peace to you,

Amen

P.S. And don’t forget to smile, great big enormous smiles, the kind that reaches your eyes so that despite those masks, those around you can see you’re smiling and be warmed! xo

To All of Us Who Are Charting Unknowns

The crickets are in full chorus, and, for me, that’s always a sure sign of the approach of fall.

In all its breathtaking beauty, pristine skies, and warm color, fall overtakes summertime, yet I struggle to say goodbye to our Canadian summer. With fading flowers, shorter days, and cooler nights, September will bring with it the new school year and the added challenges due to COVID.

We’ve already seen so much change and made so many adjustments. I’m amazed at our resiliency to face unknowns and navigate countless uncharted routes. How we’ve persevered and continued to try new things is remarkable. How we’ve kept going and reaching for our dreams despite uncertainty or loss is inspiring.

Stepping into new and unknown territory, or continuing forward on the current climb, can be unnerving. We want to know the route in advance, to have all the possible unknowns nailed down, to make sure we don’t get derailed. But in truth, we can’t and don’t have to. All the planning in the world can’t ensure a perfect outcome or ideal conditions.

Being courageous or trying new things doesn’t mean a lack of fear. It means treading forward onto new ground despite fear. It means with every step forward we tramp over fear until we have reached our destination. There may be some detours, some tough climbs, some falling rocks, but we stay the course, undaunted by the fallout.

Don’t be fooled. Trying new or hard things swings the door wide on fear, but what if we renegotiate our thought life and say that fear’s proximity signals we are on the right track? Its arrival means we are stretching ourselves and reaching and learning and growing. We are moving forward, conquering the rough bits, and refusing to atrophy.

Mistakes? Bring them on! They too need to be rewired in our thought process. Our brain will expand through missteps, and we will grow more sure-footed. Mistakes—or wilderness wandering—is often preparation for future treks. Through them, we learn to trust God more fully, we grow in wisdom, and gather more grip for the next hard thing. Wrapped in His forgiveness and grace, and increasing in confidence, we will lunge forward, like a cliff climber reaching upward to grasp the smallest rocky outcrop that seems almost out of reach.

Before we know it, we are challenging others to try hard things or to join us in ours. Then one bright day, we pause to check the map and discover how far we’ve come. We smile because at that moment we realize that although it wasn’t easy or perfect, we scaled the unknowns and arrived. It was worth the climb, and more than that, we are no longer the same as when we began. We are stronger and wiser, and our character has grown.

Somewhere along the journey, fear—overshadowed by courage—became a bystander.

My courageous step forward this fall is beginning to write my third book. Fear is lurking and eager to heap on discouragement. But I’m choosing to believe that it’s a signal I’m on the right track. I’m reaching and moving forward despite imperfections and unknowns. Each written word is a step forward in my climb, my journey, and I trust its completion will be worth the effort. After all, my word of the year is Fearless! And while that may not mean a complete lack of fear, I can definitely fear-less.

As you approach this fall, with its many unknowns and invitations to fear, be reminded that with every step forward, you are not only moving ahead, but also growing, learning, and developing. It’s not about the absence of fear, or fully controlling the conditions, it’s about taking one small and courageous step at a time and enjoying the view.

May you be enfolded by the grace and mercy of the Father, trusting that one glorious day all the twists and turns of your journey will make sense.

“The way we deal with uncertainty says a lot about whether Jesus is ahead of us leading or just behind us carrying our stuff.” ~ Bob Goff

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Finding Thankfulness

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I’m thankful for my hubby.

Confession: Fall isn’t my favourite time of year. I much prefer hot, hazy mid-summer days. I adore my garden at peak performance showing off its full glory. I relish a few lazy minutes of reading on the porch with the birds’ chorus adding to the unfolding beauty. There’s the endless, sunspun blue skies, and the warm evenings begging us to linger outside and squeeze the most out of the long days of light. Even as I write this, I’m still mourning summer’s end. 

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I’m thankful for my garden.

But its fall and, in Canada, that means a few changes. And with the changing season come a few things I could stand to be grateful for. Things like: apple cider, the smell of smoke sauntering out of hundred-year-old chimneys, the blazing leaves letting go, comical gourds, pumpkin pies, fall Mums, and cosy sweaters. Maybe you could add a few of your own.

My daughter adores this time of year and makes a fall list – traditions that she keeps each year. Among other activities, she decorates her room, visits the pumpkin patch with a friend, then painstakingly carves the perfect pumpkin once home. She makes procuring a pumpkin spice latte a must, makes a fall play list, and even dresses up for Halloween to hand out candy at our door. Through her, I’m trying to increase my affection for fall.

But no matter where we find ourselves this autumn, no matter how much you cherish the changing seasons, how amazing, or not-quite-so-amazing, your circumstances may be, the truth is we can always find something to be thankful for. Thanksgiving is an ideal reminder that we really should be living each day thankful, not just one weekend.

Here are some things I’m thankful for: a simple breath of outside air, the late-day sun on my face, a flock of migrating birds crossing overhead, a sip of warm coffee, the bite of food in my mouth before thinking of the next, and a moment of stillness in my home (like this one when no one is making a sound). I’m thankful for my dear friends who love and cheer me on, my children who encourage me to do big things, and my husband who still loves me after 26 years of intimately knowing my every fault. And I’m thankful that God, who knows me even better than that, gave His Son because He thinks I matter.

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I’m thankful for my kids.

This act of being thankful has a way of brushing the cobwebs of ingratitude away. Like the way we gripe in our childish entitlement, or the way we have mini-fits when the world doesn’t give us all we asked for. Thankfulness acts as an automatic attitude-shifter, and the everyday, moment-by-moment practice of it helps us approach our minutes with a healthier, life-giving focus.

There are times so bewilderingly dark, so emotionally or physically painful, that it seems virtually impossible to find a single thing to be thankful for. But even when the light is scant, look hard. There is always a small ray of hope shining in that darkness and lighting something of which to be thankful for – even if it is that next breath.

And, like anything, the more we practice thankfulness, the easier it becomes. What if this weekend we start, and then just keep going – this month and this year – and develop a solid habit of finding something to be thankful for each day, and especially in times of difficulty? I have an inkling we might experience an increased dose of contentment, peace, and joy.

     “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”                      1 Thessalonians 5:18

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  1. Have you made a “Thankful List”?
  2. Develop the practice of finding things to be thankful for each day and even each moment.