How to master the art of teaching in one (really hard) step


Once upon a time, I was a new teacher.

Thrown into a classroom with little support, it was baptism by fire.

I leaned hard on a mentor who stubbornly refused to let me fail.

And on the other new teachers at my school—young and idealistic like me.

Two of those young, idealistic teachers got “promoted” to administrative jobs this year.

Jobs at which they will undoubtedly be fabulous.

Because I am too competitive, this gave me pause.

Should I be working harder toward upward mobility in my field?

The truth is (at least for now), the classroom is my happy place.

It’s a place where I work alongside little people to make magic happen.

I am a good teacher.

I know this.

Much better than I was in those baptism by fire years.

Sometimes people ask me about my secret.

There’s one thing, I think, that sets the truly great teachers apart.

I have not mastered it, exactly, but it is my number one goal this year.

And every year.

Truly great teachers care about kids and make them believe it.

With some kids, this is easy.

They come to school wide-eyed and ready to learn.

They don’t make waves.

They know how it feels to be cared about and they hang on your every word.

But the truly great teachers sweep the edges,

Nudging the ones who have been taught by life not to care.

Chipping away at hard exteriors, seeing leadership where others see defiance.

Paying attention, remembering hard what catches their attention, even for a second.

And mentioning it.

Casually, casually, so as to not make a fuss.

The truly great teachers lose sleep over this.

Plotting and scheming and never giving up.

Because they know that when content knowledge and pedagogy and the best of behavior management strategies fail, relationships don’t.

Truly great teachers don’t teach math or kindergarten or PE.

Truly great teachers teach children.

Every single one of them.


Loved to the end

It has not been my best week.

Too many anxiety-provoking meetings, too much yelling at a child who is trying my patience, too many appliances falling apart around my house.

I am tired and needy.


I am here for the same reason that I like to keep Little One in “big church” as much as I can—because being in this room matters.

Messy lives rubbing up against one another, voices joined in hope and celebration.  There is power in loving Jesus together.

In another season of life, in another head-space, I might hear challenge in the same words.

But today, all I hear is love.

Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

(John 13:1)

A humble servant, stooping to wash the feet of the faithful and the unfaithful alike.

I love you.

A body broken, blood spilled, a kernel of wheat falling to the ground to die in order that many may live.  That I may live.

I love you.

A place prepared where all will be new.  No more striving and struggling.  No more uncertainty about tomorrow.

A place that needs no temple because he is the temple.

A place that needs no sun because he shines so radiantly.

I love you.  I love you.

I’ve heard it all before.  The very same words.

One thousand times, at least.

And still it feels new.  Like water to my desperately thirsty soul.

I cannot even try to wrap my mind around it tonight.

I just drink it in, unfolding my arms and letting it splash into my face.

Into my heart.

Tonight the word is simple.

Maybe it’s a word for you too.

You are loved.

Loved to the end.

The end of this day.  The end of your life.  The end of eternity.

Friend, you are so, so loved.

When Your Body Mocks You

She is overly chipper when she returns to the room.

I shouldn’t judge.  Doctors are supposed to be happy to give good news.

“Well,” she chirps, “you are perfectly healthy!”

I am here for a routine check-up.

I don’t suspect that anything is wrong.  And it’s not.

As I step out into the blinding sun, I can’t help but make space for it

The reality that this perfectly healthy body of mine will most likely never carry a baby.

Not because it can’t, but because of my choices.

Don’t get me wrong.

My life is full of much that I love.

I love my daughter (and the Little Ones) more than life itself.

But this was not the plan.

You guys, I thought there would be a soul mate.

(So help me if you leave a comment about your great aunt Myrtle who found her true love at the age of 82…)

I thought there would at least be a choice to carry a baby in my perfectly healthy body.

(I know there are ways to do this without a soul mate and I don’t judge you if you try them.  They are not for me.)

It’s not something that I mourn intensely.

But it’s something that throbs a little at moments like this.

Do I wish my babies had a daddy?  Yes.

It just doesn’t seem quite fair, you know?

And I can’t help but wonder about the what-ifs.

All of the places that things might have gone differently if I had walked a different way.

I don’t really want to speak this, because I know so many of you have stories that are harder.

Stories that seem much more unfair.

But it is true.

And if there is another mama out there with the same little throb,

I want you to know that you are not alone.

You are not alone

When you step into the blinding sun and your perfectly healthy body mocks you.



I’ve always been a little bit restless.

I blame this on my youthful (right?!) zeal to “do something big” for God.

But I had a dream the other night that I ran away from it all.

Like off-the-grid, nobody-knows-where-I-am away.

Because it would be super-easy to raise kids in the middle of the woods with no electricity and only a hatchet and a cooking pot to my name.

But anyway.

I know this is part of the restlessness too.

Sometimes I just want to run away.

Away from all of the roles that I mostly love but struggle to reconcile with each other: mom.  foster mom.  teacher.  friend.  writer.  advocate.

Their collision feels both too hard and too ordinary.

I dream of rocking babies in an orphanage, of teaching at a school in the middle of nowhere, of delivering vaccines to remote villages on horseback, of making a ton of money to invest in microenterprise.

I like to try to divide up the moments, the experiences in my life.  You know, the ones where I am “on mission” for Jesus.  And then all the rest.

And then I see my babies with their toes dangling in the water.

A spontaneous stop after an errand I’d written off as a failure.

Babies who, today, are my mission.

My hard, ordinary mission.

The justice system tells me that one of them is “mine” and the other one is not.

But I cannot not love.  I cannot not pour every bit of my heart and soul into giving them every chance to know how family feels.

And so

Tonight I will sing and pray and tuck them in.  Again.

Tomorrow I will feed them and read them stories and put up with their ridiculous shenanigans.  Again.

Maybe I will dream again about running away.

But I will wake up and do the hard, ordinary thing.  And then I will do it again.

And so

If you are feeling restless.

Tired, unappreciated, emotionally frazzled.

It does not mean that you are in the wrong place.

It does not mean that you are not “on mission.”

Get some sleep.  Dream a little.

And wake up to do the hard, ordinary thing.

Because it matters too.