Reflections on teaching and why I sought a new platform

“You’re a bad teacher!”

The moment those words were spit in my face, I knew that my days in formal education were coming to a close.

She’s got high apple pie in the sky hopes

I used to be one of those kids that asked my grade school teachers for extra worksheets before summer break so that I could force my younger relatives to come to my bedroom turned classroom for play school. If anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would eagerly blurt out “Teacher!” before they even finished the question.

It didn’t take a spiritual gifts test for me to realize that my gift was teaching.

Even when I reached college, while everyone was changing their majors and reinventing their life missions at least thrice, I stuck with teaching. I may have bounced between interests in kinesiology, sociology, cultural anthropology, and English, but my goal was always to teach.

Finally, I settled on English (though I was more interesting in writing than reading). It seemed like a good fit.

During my courses in the college of education, I was the student that skipped to the board and stood in the splits when I taught my peer reviewed lessons and was described by the instructor as being “loosey goosey”. Making lesson plans was exhilarating and being able to construct lessons that students actually liked was a fun challenge for me.

Here, there, and back again

Then student teaching happened.

I was placed in a school with teachers that had been there a long time and didn’t really have an interest in being there much longer. Of course because of that, they had very jaded attitudes and no qualms about passing their negative opinions onto all of us student teachers. I tried to ignore it and focus on the students (I ended up making lots of great connections with the kids, some that have lasted to this day), but nevertheless, I became very disillusioned. By the time I graduated, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be a teacher anymore.

It took less than five months in that atmosphere for my hopes of being a teacher to wither away.

Still, I had to make money once I moved back home, so I figured I’d substitute teach. One sub job in particular turned into a part-time position, which soon became a full-time gig. Slowly but surely, working in this new setting brought me out of my funk, and I began to love teaching again. For four years I came to know and love so many students, and I put lot of effort into building relationships with them. Incoming seventh grade girls were invited to my house for facials or craft parties, I took the majority of my female students out for lunch on the weekends (until I couldn’t afford it anymore, then I just had them come to my classroom for lunch), and I ensured my classroom activities were student-centered rather than teacher-centered. I had so much fun with those kids, so much that during one teacher evaluation the principal told me I acted more like a youth pastor than a teacher.

I didn’t think that was a bad thing.

I loved teaching and I’d like to think that my students enjoyed being in my classroom.

Some of my favorite people in the entire world.

Some of my favorite people in the entire world.

The turning of the tides

Even so, I didn’t feel as though I was “called” to stay there for a long time or to be a teacher in that kind of setting once I left. I just wasn’t sure when the change would happen or what I would do afterwards. An altercation with a student’s parent, based on a total misunderstanding, was a crippling blow to my self-worth and really became the catalyst in confirming the notion that maybe being a school teacher just wasn’t for me. So much good had come out of my experience at the school and leaving my kiddos was hard (their school pictures are part of our living room decor here), but by the end, I was tired.

It was fun while it lasted.

When we first moved to Kenya, Ray suggested that I apply for teaching jobs here, and I refused to the point of tears and accusations that he didn’t really love me. My teaching experience hadn’t ended extremely well, so I had no desire to go back into that field, especially in a new setting where teachers are supposed to be strict disciplinarians (they still cane here). I’ve never been great at being professional or maintaining a strict teacher-student distance in the academic setting in the States, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to cut it here. I told him my days of teaching were over and that I wanted to find something else to do with my life.

Finding a new sense of purpose

When God gives you a gift, I don’t believe it ever dies. (Tweet this)

You may be able to sit on it for a while, but sooner or later it will come out in some form or fashion. Through all my experiences, good and bad, I’ve learned that just because I have the calling to be a teacher doesn’t mean that I’m called to be in the academic setting.

I use my gift when I write, I use it when I lead Bible studies, I use it in conversations, and I’m most definitely going to use it when it comes to The Joshua Blueprint, our fledgling organization that will be partnering with children’s homes to provide access to arts and media training. We’re currently in the process of building curriculum, which I’m actually really digging, and then once we get started, I’ll be able to engage with kiddos in a classroom setting once again.

That’s my heart.

I love the thought of being my own boss when it comes to this organization and being able to engage freely with the kids without someone telling me I’m not being professional enough. Yes, I can be professional when it comes to leading board meetings and whatnot, but I can also teach while dancing across the classroom and let students learn the way they like to learn, because JB is all about creativity and letting creatives be creative, which generally can get messy. The best part is that the Head of our ministry enjoys the crazy creative process we go through to create personal expressions of worship, and He is more eager to engage with the kids in the process than I am.

I can’t wait to get back into the classroom and watch my students create.

It feels so good to have my heart for teaching feel alive again. It’s been quite a journey getting here, but I finally feel like I’m where I belong.

If you haven’t already, be sure to “like” our Facebook page to stay updated on what we’re doing with JB. You can also read my post on our first scouting trip to Kitale to get some more background information.

Claustrophobia and the trap of offense

My brothers and I all have claustrophobia issues. As children, if you tried to put a blanket over our heads, you’d undoubtedly receive claw marks and bruises in the process. Never put a blanket over a Curtis kid’s head.

Fun and games gone wrong

One day my brothers, nieces, and I were playing hide and seek. My niece Jimera was “it”, while the other four of us scampered to find a place to hide. Inevitably, we all ran to the same spot: a 5×5 square foot closet in my brother’s room. Instead of fighting over who would lay claim to the ultimate hiding spot, we all decided to cram ourselves in and shut the door. She would never think that we would all be hiding in the same place.

After some time a few of us became a little… skiddish. Excited, rapid breaths quickly transitioned into shallow, anxious ones. What was taking her so long?

It was time to make the run for “home”.

I was sitting at the door, so they whispered for me to open it. I turned the knob and pushed.

Nothing.

I tried again.

Nothing.

My brother tried.

Nothing.

Suddenly, absolute panic ensued as everyone including myself (the oldest of the bunch) hysterically screamed and cried. I was terrified, of course, but feeling the terror of everyone else in that cramped space was overwhelming. It’s enough to drive a person insane! Covering my ears, I yelled, “SHUT UP! STOP IT! STOP IT!” The shrieks and sobs gradually came to a halt, and only sniffles and soft whimpers remained as I tried to muster up some courage.

“I know you’re scared, but this isn’t helping. Let’s all just call for Jimera together. I’m sure she can open it from the outside.”

Looking back, I’m sure my “come on guys, let’s do this together attitude” came from some Disney movie I’d recently watched. Within a few minutes, Jimera heard us from downstairs and came up to figure out why we seemed to have forgotten the rules of hide and seek. As she opened the door, we all tumbled out and cried and laughed as we shared the story of our misfortune.

Needless to say, not a single one of us ever used that closet as a hiding place again.

Prodding me back into the fire

Last month while we were in Kitale, our new friends Patricia and Bill gave us a copy of the book “The Bait of Satan” by John Bevere. Their timing couldn’t have been more perfect because after I wrote my last inner healing post, I got stuck. Maybe stuck isn’t the right word. I became unwilling to go further. Any and every excuse I could make for why I needed to skip the time set aside to lie beneath God’s magnifying glass was accepted without question. I didn’t want to deal with the mess I knew God wanted to pull out of me. It was just easier to just try to be a nice person and forget about the “healing process”.

Today, when I felt the temptation to be offended again, I decided to pick up the book. Reading the first chapter, I was encouraged to see that John also shares the need to lay down our pride and our “right to be right. (Looks liked God was speaking to me after all.)

Then this happened:

“Anyone who has trapped animals knows that a trap needs two things to be successful: It must be hidden in the hopes that an animal will stumble upon it, and it must be baited to lure the animal into the trap’s deadly jaws.”

As I reflected on this section, the Lord began to develop the image in my mind to help the application sink in.

Biting the hand that helps you

Have you ever seen an animal caught in a trap? He will flail and ferociously struggle in his panic to get free, but what usually ends up happening is either whatever damage the trap initially did becomes worse, making death  more imminent for the defenseless creature, or the animal will fight until he has spent all of his energy. If someone were to come along and try to help, out of fear, the critter will likely turn on the person. Friend or foe, he doesn’t care. He’s just scared.

God intends to lovingly and gently set me free from the trap of offense, but in my fear, I’ve been fighting to free myself, and I’ve been fighting Him. I want to be free, but I’m just scared.

Of course I didn’t know it at the time, but the Lord taught me a very powerful lesson that day I was trapped in the closet. Call on His name in trust instead of screaming out in fear. Just as my niece heard us and came to our rescue, surely He will come.

I am a fan of reinforcing revelation with song, so here’s a few worship songs for you. Much love!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EboCLdUi44 (Whisper His Name)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RmZFaruXhs (You’ll Come)

How S’ambrosia is getting her groove back

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Just so you know, today’s topic won’t be incredibly novel to most of you, especially if you’re a married Christian woman. In fact, it’s likely that you’ve discussed this issue with your friends or read about it within the past few weeks. A friend of mine even added her perspective to the mix just last week (check it out).

As was typical of me, prior to actually being married, I believed that this could never happen to me.

But alas and alack, it did.

Now, I’m not saying folk music is the devil, but…

I should have known something was up when it came time for us to move and I had to reduce the amount of songs I had on my dad’s computer to fit into my flash drive. The anxiety-ridden task of choosing which songs to delete and which ones to keep was one I had to perform in a small amount of time, so rash decisions were made and inevitably, regret ensued.

My music library contained a combination of worship songs – like the intense kind of worship that makes you want to weep until assuming the fetal position or rocking back and forth incessantly is the only source of comfort you can find – and some rad folk music. I had just recorded an album and was looking to create more music that could hang with current trends, so I figured that listening to some popular stuff would help me make that happen; therefore, I ended up deleting most of the worship songs to make room for the folk songs. So ultimately I came to Kenya with very few worship songs in tow. Apparently I had completely forgotten how big of a role worship music plays in my devotional life.

Jesus is Lord over iTunes too

Whenever I’m doing chores around the house, it’s a given that music will be playing. Now that we have WiFi in the house, my iPhone has revoked its paperweight status and become a useful smartphone again… around the house at least. (It’s difficult to access WiFi elsewhere.) Anyway, because of the wonderful iCloud feature, any song that I’ve ever bought on iTunes is automatically available to stream on my iPhone, even if I deleted it in a temporary lapse of judgment.

As I was washing dishes the other day, a bunch of those intense worship songs that I thought I had lost forever began to play successively at the behest of the shuffle button on my phone, and as each song played, my face got uglier and uglier as I struggled to sing the lyrics through my tears. Songs about an intimate covenant with God played, reminding me of a time when I could hear such words and not feel like they were a foreign language. Songs of joy regarding the freedom we experience when the rivers of God rush into the lowest place came up next, opening my eyes to the drought my soul has been experiencing.

That night I could do nothing but whisper to God, “I miss You.” And there I was, back in the fetal position again.

Oh Lord, I don’t want to be one in this number when the saints go marching in

If you haven’t guessed it yet, I have fallen into the category of women who feel like marriage has cause their relationship with God to decline. Okay, maybe caused is strong verbiage, but I can at least say that marriage sometimes pits itself against God when it comes to my daily priorities and decision making abilities.

Now, like any other woman who’s talked about this issue, I’m not blaming my husband. As I’ve mentioned before, he does a great job of keeping us on track with our Bible discussions as a couple, which is key to our growth in God, but that does not take the place of my one-on-one time with the Lord. I mean, as much as we are one flesh, I still have to stand before God one day and give account of my actions as an individual. He still expects us to search Him out and to seek to commune with Him on a daily basis, regardless of what our marital status may be.

Ray is gone for most of the day, so I have plenty of time to saturate myself in the goodness of God.  What have I been doing instead, you wonder? Well, first thing in the morning, I pull out my iPhone. Then I get on the laptop and start working on transcriptions or writing. Transcriptions usually take hours to complete, sometimes even a full day, so before I know it, it’s late and  I have to hurry and clean the house before Ray gets home so I can pretend like I’m a responsible wife. We have Bible study before bed, and sometimes I get some cool revelation and sometimes I don’t, but it depends on my attitude and how open I am to receive it. There are days where I yawn through the whole thing and I just want to get back on the laptop. Honestly, the longer I spend neglecting my personal devotional time with the Lord, the more frequently those kinds of days occur.

Remembering the good ‘ole days

The height of intimacy in my relationship with God was definitely my college years. It was my joy to spend hours in worship exploring new ways to encounter the beauty of Christ or to read the Bible and get crazy revelations to journal or share with friends. In those moments my heart felt like it was thriving in the fullness of Christ. Even writing this now, my heart feels so crusty and cold in comparison. There was a time I could feel the weight of God’s presence when I would worship. Does being married mean I have to say goodbye to that? I should hope not.

My friends used to tell me about how marriage and family affect their devotional life with God, and I would think, “Well, duh, you have to make time.” It always seemed like such an easy fix to me when I was single. Now that I’m married, I can’t concede and say that they were right and it’s difficult; I just have to step in front of them so I’m the first one in line to receive the finger wagging from other single ladies.

I’m not as busy as I tend to proclaim I am. Yes, I have a lot of responsibilities between work and taking care of my husband and home, but those things don’t keep me busy every second of the day. When I wake up in the morning I can spend time with God, I just don’t feel like it. When I get online and hours go by with me just reading random schtuff that has no significant bearing on my life, I could be spending that time with God. When I refuse to stop playing Candy Crush until I’ve used all of the lives alloted to me, I could be spending that time chatting it up with God. Sometimes I even just lie in bed and do nothing. I could at least be living in an awareness of God’s nearness to me.

My contribution to the conversation

As I’ve been typing this blog, I quickly realized that I didn’t actually have a point. I even ended my first draft by typing, “I don’t know how to end this… is there an answer or am I just venting?” I had to walk away from the computer for a while to get what seems like too simple of a response from the Lord. It came in the form of a Scripture:

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

All of those excuses we give for why we can neglect our time with the Lord seem valid at the time, or at least we can talk ourselves into believing that they’re valid, but what would happen if instead of choosing a nap, I chose to renew my strength by meeting with Christ in our secret place? Or what if I woke up in the morning and turned to gaze upon the fairest of ten thousand instead of turning on the television? I know we like to use television as a way to unwind or defragment, if you will, but I want to learn to defragment by pressing into Jesus.

Learning to implement these desires in this phase of my life has been and will be a challenge, but I’m tired of telling God how much I miss Him before I go on about my business and my plans for the day. It’s definitely about time this girl got her groove back.