Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Letter to My Students

The last day of school is a bittersweet day. I finished my second year of teaching fourth grade today. And while I'm ready for the rest and the adventure that the "off season" brings, there is something about hearing that final bell ring that makes me sad. I was blessed with a wonderful, sweet class this year. I liked being "Mrs. Burns" for them. I liked when they accidentally (and sometimes on purpose) called be "Mom". I liked their hugs, their sweet notes, and every time they said "I'll miss you". I am looking forward to getting a new crop of kiddos in August, but today I wanted to share with you the words I had to write to my second class.

As I began planning their end-of-year presents, I searched Pinterest and TPT for a cute goodbye poem to attach to them. And though the notes I found were cute, they didn't feel right. There was more that I needed to say before June 4th. So this is what I wrote. Not to brag on me in any way (that would be a short conversation), but to brag on a rag-tag group of 9,10, and 11 year-olds that captured my heart this year- through the good days and the bad.  

Dear Friend,
  We’ve had a great  year together! It makes me sad that it is time to say goodbye for the summer. Before you go, I want to tell you a few things.
  First, I hope you know how smart you are. Every single one of you. And I don’t mean you got good grades or made the honor roll. I mean that you are smart and capable in your very own way. You are uniquely you - the best thing you can be!
  Second, I had a wonderful time with you. You are funny and sweet and you make my bad days better. I hope you know that I have never been mad at you. I have never disliked you. I have only ever loved you. And when you love someone, you do your best to teach them and make them better. You were awesome when you came to me in August, but I hope that you will leave me smarter, stronger, kinder, and more polite.
  Finally, please know that I am always here for you. Always, always. I hope that next year, as a fancy fifth grader, you will come back and give me a hug and tell me how you are doing. Because I will never forget you. A mother never forgets her “kids”, and that is what you have been to me this year.
  Thank you for the laughs, the smiles, the hugs, the tears. Thank you for putting up with me, while I put up with you. Each and every one of you made me a better teacher.
  Have a wonderful summer break! Read lots of books, and then come back and tell me all about them.
  Your Teacher,
      Mrs. B


Have a wonderful summer break, teacher friends. Your break is well-deserved!

Monday, March 23, 2015

24 On My 24th

Yet another blog post not about teaching. They're coming- I promise.
Twenty four things that I am grateful for as another year of life begins.

1. Good health. God has brought me out of a dark place. Life is much different and I am so thankful.

2. Family. I am so blessed to live close to much of my family, and that makes me so happy. I am an hour away from seeing Cinderella with my Mom and sisters, and neighbors with my second Mom and Dad. 

3. My dog. You don’t understand that I own the cutest dog ever. In the world. And I love coming home to his goofy, tail-wagging, slobbery self every day. He makes me smile when I feel so far from happy.

4. God’s word and His promises. Where my words fail, His do not. Though I am full of doubt, sadness, and fear, his mercies are new every morning. May His words replace my own.

5. My job. Though it can be SO stressful, I know it’s only because I care about it so much. I am thankful for principals that back me up, coworkers that help me out, and kids that adore me even on my worst days. They make it all possible.

6. My kids. They have a part of my heart, even though they drive me crazy sometimes. But when I drive around town- it is their faces I look for on sidewalks, bikes, or roads. I scan newspapers and websites for their names or their families. I spend my money on them and things for them all the time. I leave work and talk about them- the funny things they said, problems I am trying to solve with them, great things that they did. I worry and I pray and I would give my life for any of them, good day or bad day.

7. Arkansas. I live in a beautiful state, surrounded by beautiful trees and flowers. Though I don’t like the bugs, I have a great view so much of the time.

8. Creativity. Though I am not as great as some, God has given me a sprinkling of this. It makes me good at my job. It fills bored moments with projects and ideas. 

9. My church. It has been several years since I have truly had a church family to call home. During that time, things happened that made us both untrusting and burnt out. So I am thankful to now belong to a church family that is different from any other I have encountered, in a good way. And I like that they let me hold babies, arrange large stacks of wood, and throw 80’s parties sometimes.

10. Books. I am thankful for a love of reading that has never faded. I am thankful that I get to spend my days buying and reading books for my kids, and for myself. And I am thankful for another world to slip into when mine just seems too crazy.

11. Jellybeans. Because that’s what I’m eating right now.

12. Instagram. This year I was able to start an Instagram account specifically about teaching. Over 700 followers later, I am grateful to be a part of a growing community of teachers online that share ideas, products, and encouragement with one another. What a joy it is to have access to all these other people that “get” it.

13. And on that note, Teachers Pay Teachers. Though I don’t make millions (I wish, right?), I love sharing the things I make for my classroom and helping other teachers out. And that little payout I get once in a while helps fund my purse/shoe addiction. 

14. Weekends and holidays. Because I need them and the sleep they give me.

15. Change. Even though it’s scary and annoying sometimes, I like a good adventure. God keeps us on our toes.

16. Pinterest. From last minute dinner ideas to parties and school projects, it’s a lifesaver. It’s my favorite mix of dreams and reality. 

17. Words. God’s words. Other peoples’ words. Sometimes mine. That God would give us brains to arrange words into beautiful songs and sentences is beyond amazing to me. 

18. Pictures. Because sometimes it’s good to look back.

19. Friends. There was a time in my life where I couldn’t really say that I had any close ones. So I am so grateful that has changed. I am thankful for friends that are family and have to put up with you. For friends that let you cry and complain and don’t make you feel bad about it. For friends that let you do crazy projects and let you be bossy and go out to eat with you. For friends that help you find a house. For friends that rant with you about work. For friends that generally like you, crazy hair, crazy life, hot mess self and all.

20. Food. Need I say more?

21. Road trips. Long drives piled in the car. Making up stupid new lyrics for Taylor Swift songs. Listening to podcasts. Complaining about the big fat dog baby in my lap. Keeping each other awake. Driving through darkness feeling like the only people in the world.

22. Music. My constant background noise. My escape. My long shower-taking companion. My get-pumped-up-for-work songs. My point me back to Jesus times of worship. 

23. Josh Samuel. Husband, friend, bossy-pants, forever love. Who buys me flowers and books. Who tells me to hurry up when I’m running late (all the time). Who takes me to church and Target and to see my family. Who lets me hold babies and talk about ten year olds all the time. Who buys me Disney movies and records HGTV for me. Who lets me sleep in and stay up late. Who makes me feel pretty and loved and makes me laugh more than anyone I have ever known. You are my everything on earth.

24. Grace. Without which I could not be here, typing this. His love knows no bounds and I am nothing without it. I am whiny and impatient and doubtful. But He never leaves me, only loves me. That is word-taking, mind-blowing wonderful.

Here's to 24 blessed years and hopefully, more.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Why I'm Only Making One New Year's Resolution This Year

Hello all! I am basking in the glow of winter break. So much so that I am even blogging. Crazy right? I'm here today to get personal with you again and talk about why this year, in 2015, I'm only making one New Year's Resolution.

Yep, just one. 

This year I am resolving to do this one thing better- faith.

Let me start from the beginning.

I'm typing this at 1:30 in the morning. I slept in too late this morning (oh how I love winter break) and can't fall asleep. So naturally, my brain starts to bring up all of the things. You know, the things. The list of "Things That Are Currently Going Wrong In My Life That Need To Be Fixed Right Away". Those things. So here come the questions...Why me? Why can't I have that? When is that going to happen for me? Why can't I be happy all the time? Blah blah blah. The usual.

But this time, something stopped me ("Hello, God here!"). I started thinking about my hand. It was stretched out across the bed, just where my fingertips could touch my husband's arm. He doesn't notice. He's sleeping like a rock over there. But sometimes, like this time, I just want to reach out and know that he's there. And God reminded me in that moment that He keeps his promises. 

I didn't date in high school. I didn't date until college. And it killed me, as many things do at that age. Anything that set me apart from what I thought was "normal" or "cool" or "expected" was literally the end of the world. I spent countless nights asking God the same thing over and over- Why me? What's wrong with me? When is it going to happen for me?

When I think back on those days, I am heartbroken all over again. But for different reasons. First, I would tell myself to get it together and put on some makeup. Because I needed it. But then I would grab myself by the shoulders and shake me and say, "If only you knew what I know now! If only you could see what God's going to do for you!" 

And don't you know that's exactly what God is saying to me everytime my insomniac mind brings up my laundry list of problems? In the midst of my whining He is dying to shake me and say, "If only you knew what I know! If only you could see what's going to happen next!"

I met my husband during my sophomore year of college. I was honestly just around the corner from all that God had for me. But I was letting my selfish thoughts blind my faith. So often I let a bad case of the "why me's" get the best of me.
So let my husband (who was and is more than I could have ever imagined myself deserving and a million times better than high school boys I might add)- let all the countless blessings that surround me- be my constant reminder that God is a promise keeper. While I am whining my life away, He is waiting and ready to reveal to me a plan that is so much more wonderful than my small, human mind can imagine. Through my most broken moments (though there are may more to come I am sure), God has brought and will bring me joy.
 I only need faith to see it.

And that, my friends, is my New Year's Resolution for 2015. To live by faith, and not by my stupid, selfish, go-to-sleep-it's-one-in-the-morning sight ;)

"Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it's your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory." 1 Peter 1:7 (MSG)

"Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" Matthew 14:31 (NIV)

"It's what we trust in but don't yet see that keeps us going." 2 Corinthians 5:7 (MSG)

P.S. - God keeps lots of promises in my life (and yours). This is just one special example :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The DIY Woman

We live in a DIY culture. With easy access to the internet and our beloved Pinterest, it has become increasingly popular to do everything ourselves. Whether it's a new recipe or doomsday prepping, Pinterest has it all. And I love it. In the midst of house shopping, I went on a pinning spree of DIY house remodeling. What? I can remodel a whole kitchen for under $500? That's amazing. *Pins* You can redo countertops with spraypaint? *Pins* And so on. 

Pinterest is especially wonderful for my classroom. When looking for a good Thanksgiving craft for my kids the other day, I didn't even bother with Google (what is this the Stone Ages?), I went straight there. And I love it. I love finding things I never thought I could do. I love pinning projects I know I will never complete or things I know I will never own. It's like window shopping on your couch. It's perfect.

 But here's what I think. (Take it or leave it). Sometimes Pinterest can make me feel...small. Let me explain. My husband and I recently went through the process of joining our church. Part of this process included thinking about your gifts and talents, and what you can get involved in doing for the church and for God. This is where the thought came from. There are A LOT of things that I wish I was good at. Singing, for one. I love worship music and my car is my personal concert. But I know that singing can't be my thing. Art is another thing. Back in the day before reality set in, I thought I would be an architect. Until I realized that I absolutely CANNOT draw. I can't build or fix things. I can't talk for long periods of time in front of crowds. I can't bake and decorate cakes that look like they should be on Cake Boss. (Another talent I wanted to have once upon a time). I can't build houses or fix computers or do anything other than drive my car.

And the thing about Pinterest and the DIY movement (as I'm calling it), is that it makes you think you CAN do it all. Homemade chapstick? I can make that! No, Hannah, you can't. You can't make a homemade cake. Don't even go there. Build your own farmhouse table? What? I can do that! No, Hannah, you can't. You can't even hammer a nail properly. If someone on Pinterest says it's "DIY" or "Make it Yourself", I should be able to do it, right?! That's where I think we're wrong.

1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) says, "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms". Similarly, Romans 12:6 says, "We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us".

What I'm getting at is that "DIY" is not a gift. I cannot do everything. You cannot do everything. Not every project I take on will be successful, and I shouldn't feel bad if it doesn't. As social media has taught us, not everything is as good as it seems. If you follow me on Instagram, chances are you won't see me post a "I woke up like this" selfie, because that is a truly terrifying site to behold. I don't let my husband video me when I'm grumpy because I wouldn't have any Facebook "friends" after that. We show what we want others to see. If my "DIY" project didn't turn out, I'm not going to post it on Pinterest for others to try out.

But here's the good news. God tells us we are "fearfully and wonderfully made". In Jeremiah 1:5 He says, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart". God doesn't expect us to do everything. My worth to Him is not determined by my Pinterest projects or my craftiness. 

I think another fuel to this fire is our obsession with the Proverbs 31 woman and being just like her. "She makes coverings for her bed" (v. 22). "She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes." (v. 24)
Here are the verses I want to draw your attention to: "She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue" (v. 26), "She is clothed with strength and dignity" (v. 25), and "Honor her for all that her hands have done" (v. 31). Here's the thing, I don't think God is calling me to be the perfect woman. I don't think God wants me to spend my days making "linen garments" or sashes. First of all, because they would suck. Second of all, it's not my thing. I should let someone that is actually good at that, do that. Instead, I choose to focus on the "honor" and "strength" and "dignity" and "wisdom" that I know he wants to give me.

God gives us what we need. Not what we want. Not a perfect singing voice to me (probably because he knows I would be selfish about it and not God-glorifying). Not the mind or hand of a mathematician, carpenter, computer worker, or artist to me. But He did give me the magcial, powerful patience it takes to be a teacher. And He did give me a sprinkling of creativity to go along with that. 

So my point is this. Shake off the pressure of a DIY culture. Take Pinterest projects with a grain of salt. Stop obsessing over the Proverbs 31 woman. God fearfully and wonderfully made you. Just as you are. And though he wants you to grow and improve, He doesn't expect you to do it yourself.

P.S. - If you need to feel better about your DIY skills, or just need a laugh, check out