From the Archives: Remembering One Back-to-School August

back-to-school_M1eTPK_u_MI’ll never forget this August of 2010, when My daughter Hannah, 23, and fresh out of college, became a high school English teacher. Hannah!…the one who had never attended a day of “real” elementary, middle or high school!  She also had never planned to be a school teacher. In fact, she had purposefully planned NOT to! Here are her thoughts that fall:
So I realize, of course, that it’s been 198264910.7 years since I’ve updated this thing. I would apologize for this, but seeing as how I’ve made no prior commitment to waste your time with my own random musings which are probably only interesting to me and maybe my mother who loves me more than any daughter deserves to be loved (my dad loves me, too, but is much less likely to even know what Tumblr is), an apology really isn’t necessary.
In the event, however, that you, the current reader, are somewhat interested in my quite unexpected post-grad way of life, keep reading. The other 90%, just stop here. This is just another, “Wow-let-me-impart-into-your-soul-some-urgent-life-changing-thoughts-that-are-really-not-that-earth-shattering-but-feel-good-to-get-off-my-chest” post.
The last time I got on here and talked about my life, I was fresh out of college, about to stay in a friend’s apartment all summer in Henderson, TN. I was doing some freelance work for a religious publication and working with some great kids in my youth minister boyfriend’s youth group. I was also speaking at youth rallies and such on some weekends. For then, that was plenty. I was just glad I didn’t have to feel like a major moocher at my parents’ house . I wanted to feel like I was doing something worthwhile. I felt that by the end of the summer, I would have another exciting plan to chase.
I had an amazing summer. I cooked every day. I had slumber parties. I dyed t-shirts. I got to speak to hundreds of girls who were hungry for truth and just someone to relate to them. I made new friends—some of which I think will last forever. I went star-gazing. I wrote a lot. I fell in love.
In the meantime, I sent my resume to as many newspapers as I could find that needed writers. I quickly discovered that not a lot of promising journalism opportunities are made available to newly graduated starry eyed writers with no major reporting experience and no Masters degrees.
By the end of the summer, I was still believing in my heart of hearts that I was going to get a call with an exciting job offer in an exciting new city in which I could spread my wings and become the competent journalist I was meant to be.
It seems God had other plans.
I got a call near the end of the summer. Chester County High School needed an English teacher and I had been recommended. Would I be interested in coming in for an interview? I chuckled. Never in my life did I ever think of myself as a public school teacher—much less HIGH SCHOOL. I was an English major, yes, but had never had a single education class, and definitely no student teaching experience. What a joke! I expressed, however, how honored I felt that I was considered, but for now, “probably not—I’ll get back to you though.”
Long story short—a week later, still no job, and my desperation was at an all-time high. The last thing I wanted to do was to financially depend on others when I was perfectly capable of working for my own paycheck. After a lot of thought and prayer, I decided to call the school back and inquire about the position. After all, it would only be a 1-year contract, it was good money for starting out (especially in this economy), and it would be good experience to have under my belt regardless.
The position was filled.
I knew it would be. Sure I did. My own stupid fault for being too good for a perfectly good job that not a lot of fresh college grads are offered.
I was kicking myself for a few weeks because of that. I kept praying. I asked God to open another door for me since I had shut that one.
Then I got another phone call.
I was sitting in McDonald’s with the boyfriend when the principal at CCHS called me and asked me to come in for an interview. Turns out the guy who was originally offered the job had a family emergency and had to give up the position. I was really sad for him, but this time, I wasn’t so smug about a temporary career path that wasn’t necessarily my first choice.
Two short weeks later, I was thrown in a classroom, responsible for the education of over 150 ninth graders, my heart pounding. What you may or may not know about me is that I’ve never stepped foot into a public school. Home schooled all my life, my expectations of public high school were…well, there weren’t any. I’m not just making funny jokes when I say I didn’t know what a hall pass was, what bus duty was, what in-school suspension was, or even what a grade book looked like. I felt like a turtle trying to run a marathon, but I put on a confident face and, although I looked like a student myself, tried to convince my students that I was aptly authoritative and deserved their respect.
I’ve somehow made it through 3 complete months of teaching. While I know this may not the path for me (and that, more than ever, I want to home school my kids), I don’t regret the decision to teach for this year. God has given me more open doors in these past 3 months than I remember having my whole life. I’m amazed at how many of my students feel comfortable opening up to me about real-life issues: divorce, abuse, sex, break-ups, self-abuse, and most importantly, how to get to heaven. I’ve had Bible studies with students who are searching for something solid and stable in their worlds that are full of everything that’s broken. I’ve had multiple opportunities to share Christ with so many different open and desperate hearts. It happens just about every day—not exaggerating.
Besides that, I’m learning so many life lessons myself that I know will inevitably help me to be a better mother, a better teacher, a better organizer, and a better communicator. God knew I needed these lessons. I complain a lot about how He’s teaching me patience and wisdom, but deep down, I can hear my dad’s voice ringing loud and clear….”This is good, Hannah. It builds character.” Every time you hear a parent say something about “character-building,” you know it’s going to feel lousy sometimes until it’s all over and you can admit it helped you to grow. I’m trying to beat myself to the chase by admitting it now. The truth is, just as a disclaimer, I complain a whole lot because my job requires so much more work and time than I ever dreamed it would (I’ve realized that all teachers are underpaid and underestimated). I am ready to experience something new, but I do not question God’s plan in placing me here. Yes, He’s using me as a mouthpiece for Him in many ways (whether or not I always make the best use of that), but more than that, I think He’s teaching me a few lessons I needed myself.
I still view my life as an adventure, despite the day-in-day-out routine I’m in at the moment. After this year, I’m excited to see what God has in store for me.
As always, I’m so unworthy and I make the dumbest mistakes. On the upside, I believe I’m learning from each one. That makes them almost worth it.

She Facebooked her Friends and said “Rejoice with Me!…

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…for I have found the piece which was lost!”

Several sisters have asked about the lost dress. Facebook can be a huge umbrella of encouragement even in the mundane.  I know life’s not all about finding Cindy Colley’s heirloom dress, of all things, but I was truly humbled and amazed that so many of you cheered us on as we searched for and found a little dress that I very much wanted to put on BabyG2 next September.  Hundreds of you (literally) and many that I’ve never met have been the sweetest sisters a woman could ever have. I love Facebook for giving your encouragement to me. 

The dress was deep in a closet at Hannah’s (my daughter’s) house. It was in a garment bag hiding behind her wedding dress, which was in the back of that closet in another very huge garment bag. The funny thing was, I had everyone looking for a pink box in which I’d originally wrapped that dress for the gender reveal two years ago…the gender reveal that turned out to be for a boy. Thus, the dress was never opened at the reveal. 

What I had forgotten was that the dress had been removed from the box and used as an illustration at a ladies day in Middle Tennessee a few months after that reveal…the very weekend, in fact, that Ezra was due. (Thus the reason it never got out of my car at my house….It just went straight to Hannah’s house and got hung in a closet there because hospital luggage is not conducive to dress preservation.) That’s just where Facebook became very helpful. You found out I was looking and three of you remembered the dress. You identified where you saw it and the garment bag in which it had left the church building at East Main. In turn, I told my son Caleb (via his Facebook page) to stop looking for a box and start looking for a garment bag. Truth be told, I don’t think he’d done a whole lot of looking for either. (He’s a good egg, though.) But Hannah, being the faithful Facebook follower that she is, immediately saw that post about looking for garment bags. She had moved all the hanging clothes in that closet more than once, laid them on the bed and searched the back of that closet for a box. But this time, she rushed home and actually looked through those clothes she’d been moving  back and forth. She looked for a black garment bag. She found the dress and tried to call me…twice. Unable to reach me, she called her Daddy, who got in the car and drove across town with photos on his phone to spread the cheer.

When he walked in the kitchen door in the middle of last Tuesday, I was surprised to see him. 

“What would you give a man…?” he began. 

“You found my dress??!!”

“I think so. But what would you give a man?…Is this the dress?” He offered his phone and a series of photos.

“You found my dress!!!!” 

“Yes and you should call your daughter on that phone that I don’t even know why I pay for.…She wants to hear from you.”

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There are always lessons, of course. Here they are:

  1. If Facebook can find a lost dress, surely we can connect some dots and find some lost souls, too. Facebook is a more personal and encompassing kind of outreach than email or USPS. It’s the kind of networking in which you never know if a click that posts or comments may be the click that does click with some lost soul and opens a door to a relationship, a study, an invitation that could result in a saved soul.
  2. Facebook is a neutral commodity. You get to decide whether your use of it is for the Lord or for the devil. Now, finding a dress is not a work of the Lord. But encouraging each other, as Facebook friends did (and do regularly for me) through this medium, is a great way to get the most good out of something the devil loves to control.
  3. You’re never going to find what you’re looking for if you’re looking where it’s not. That dress was not in all those absurd places (like on top of way-up-there kitchen cabinet and in overflowing trunks where I would have never crushed that batiste and damp basement corners) where I was looking. Sometimes life is like that. We can’t find contentment. We look in all those hard-to-do absurd places instead of the obvious place where the “owner” of truth has put it in the first place. 
  4. You may be own, be picking up, carrying, and moving about the answer to all your dilemmas. But until you recognize that, open it up and really look inside, you won’t find what you’re looking for. Hannah did that with that garment bag. She moved it over and over as she looked other places, to no avail. That’s what we do with our Bibles. We lay them on the table beside our beds. We pick them back up and take them to worship. Sometimes we move them back and forth and back and forth without ever really opening and examining them. We move the book, but we don’t meditate on it, memorize it or mark it. There are many people who own a Bible but do not own truth. It’s very important that we show our kids the difference. The Bible is not a lucky amulet. It’s what’s inside that can bring us joy. But that joy exists for me only when what’s inside the book gets inside of me. Hannah had a garment bag that she was transferring mindlessly back and forth, while what was inside eluded us all. 
  5. Some people are so close to what they really want, but just not quite there. Jesus told a scribe as much in Mark 12:34. “You are not far from the kingdom,” Jesus said. I have many friends who are close to the kingdom. I hurt for them because, of  course, being close to the kingdom of God is not enough. Hannah was near that dress we were hunting each time we talked about it on the phone. It was sometimes right there in the same room with her. Close is not good enough. We have to give people the information they need to identify that for which they search. 
  6. Some news is so good, you want to personally deliver it. I love that about my husband. He loves to bring joy…not just to me, but to everyone in all circumstances. We have the very best news of all. When we understand the wretchedness of that from which the good news— the gospel—rescues people, we can’t be stopped. We are going to those people. We will move heaven and earth to reach them with the good news. In fact Heaven has already moved that they might have this good news. It’s up to us to make the move on earth. We simply must. We are going to tell them that we’ve found that for which they are searching. 

Poem: From Mom on Your Wedding Night

Dear Hannah, 
When you were three years old, you called me from your bed. You said, “Mommy, will you lay with me and sing me a song? Because maybe a dream will come if you sing me a song…because last night when you ‘sing-ed,’ a dream came.”
I guess someone else can sing to you now, because I did…and your dream has come. I love you. 

You caught frogs and turtles and each one had a name.
Pretend friends were enough for your imagining game.
You’d dizzy yourself with June bugs on a string.
Lightning bugs were your lantern when crickets would sing.
You saved shells and pebbles and clover-all sorts.
Old sheets and sticks were your tee-pees and forts.
Poking in morning glories grown “all by yourself.” 
You were giving directions to your personal elf. 
Gnomes lived in your sandbox. ‘Neath your bridge, there were trolls.
You sent them far away to rescue desperate souls.
But that was long ago and reflection years hence.
Reminds you that “far away” is just over the fence.
Your closet was a fairy room transported by dreams
In that tin foil wand there were magical schemes.
Appointments with fairies were important to keep 
There you’d be… in that closet, wand-in-hand, fast asleep.
A world of sweet dreams; that fun place of pretend.
But dreams didn’t really come true…before Ben.

But Father Time chased Mother Goose one sad day. 
Big shoes stepped in your closet and chased out the play,
Fairy rooms turned dressing rooms, and gnomes danced along.
More wistful their memories and fainter their song.
Little blond curls were pulled back into locks 
Heels became higher and skirts replaced frocks.
For time is unrelenting and days swiftly passed
We, reluctantly watched you, and you did it so fast. 
That transition from pigtails to “up-dos” flew by
And your questions changed from “What’s that?” to “Why?”
And somewhere in that passage you became my best friend.
I treasured each moment, for I knew you’d find… Ben.

A thousand times we’d prayed for him, A thousand for his dad
A thousand for his mother and the kind of home they had.
We prayed that you would find the one who’d keep your hand in His
We prayed for someone just like him and for a night like this.
But I wasn’t ready…really, on that crowded sidewalk when
This man beside you stuck his hand out saying, “Hey, I’m Ben.” 

So here you are, you Hannah-girl. Just look at you tonight.
You eyes are sparkling in the shades of dancing candlelight. 
You’ve brought the gift you promised would belong to Ben alone,
You kept it safe for Him and so he, too, has brought His own.
Life doesn’t get much sweeter than to marry your best friend. 
Tonight your God has smiled on us. He’s given us…your Ben.

Show Some Real Love– by Guest Writer: Hannah Colley

Do you really love that guy? How do you love him? Do you love him like a brother? The Greek word for that kind of love is phileo, meaning brotherly love. Do you love him because of what he can give you? The Greek word for that kind of love is eros–selfish love. Or do you love him with an unselfish love, a Christian love? Agape is the Greek word for that kind of love. When you love with agape, you love because of what you are, not because of what the other person is. Agape is the kind of love Jesus tells us we should all possess. It’s the love that is described in 1 Corinthians 13. It’s the kind of love that “seeks not her own”(I Corinthians 13:5).

Agape should affect every area of our lives—the way we treat each other, the words we speak to one another, each ethical decision we make, and even the way we dress. That’s right. We can show agape love to our Christian brothers simply in the way that we dress.
I talked with a friend recently who worships at a large congregation in a university’s town. She said that several of the men who serve at the Lord’s table hesitate to serve in the college section because of the way the college girls dress. They say it’s too difficult to keep their thoughts on the cross while serving girls whose tops are low cut and whose skirts are too short. What happened to the spirit of agape in this scenario?
I was walking through the park the other day with a guy when he suddenly stopped and asked if we could walk in another direction. When I asked why, he said, “Don’t you see all those girls laying out over there? If we walk that way, it will be really hard for me to keep my thoughts where they need to be.” As Christian girls, agape prompts us to be aware and cautious because of the visual temptations with which we know they struggle.
When we dress immodestly, we’re not showing the kind of love—agape love—that God requires of us. Instead, we’re being selfish.
This article will not address whether or not it’s sinful to dress immodestly, because most of us agree that, as Christian women, we should dress modestly (I Timothy 2:9, 10). The problem arises when we start to make exceptions to the standards of modest dress. Most Christian parents would never let their teenage daughters go to the mall dressed in mini-skirts and halter-tops, and yet they have no problem with letting them go to the beach dressed in modern swimsuits. I’ve even heard mothers say, “Oh we think modesty is very important. Even at the beach, we wear modest swimsuits.” But in our society, isn’t the very phrase “modest swimsuits” an oxymoron?
Is real agape love consistent across the board? Does it impose the same standards of modesty in all public situations? Are there instances when exposing cleavage, tummy, and thighs is appropriate? I personally know lots of girls who would never go out wearing short skirts or exposing their stomachs, unless, of course, they’re wearing their cheerleading outfits. How is it inappropriate to go to school dressed that way, but its okay to dance seductively dressed that way in front of hundreds of people at a ballgame? Ladies, what are we thinking?!
To us, as women, there may be an enormous difference between exposing lots of skin at a public beach and exposing it at a church event. But try asking a guy this question: “Is the physical or psychological response different, say at a ball game or at the beach than in Sunday school?” They might laugh at you. For guys, attraction to the female body is a physical response; something God gave them to increase the pleasure of a marital relationship. To them, your location or circumstance has little to do with it. They don’t have a switch they can flip whenever they’re going to the beach or to a ball game where cheerleaders are present.
While writing this article, I called one of my close guy friends and asked him the question mentioned in the previous paragraph. This was his response: “Are you kidding me? Guys respond the same way wherever—whenever. It does not matter whether a girl is in a football stadium or walking down the street. Girls, please take measures to help guys keep their hearts pure.”
In other words, show some love. Real love.
Taken from “Christian Woman” Magazine, Gospel Advocate, Nashville, TN.

Guest Journal Entry: Valentines, Valor and Values

At the time of this writing it’s February 15th, the day after Valentine’s Day. My favorite Valentine took me to dinner and gave me a beautiful little diamond necklace, which I love (but those little stones are not my best friends, for sure!). Our daughter, Hannah, a senior at Freed Hardeman University came home for the weekend. So we had homemade cookies with red sprinkles, opened the Valentine box on our table and passed out the tiny folded paper cards with holograms or pictures of puppies and kitties on them. We read each personalized message and even had the idea that Caleb, our son, who is away in grad school, could play our games and look at his little gifts by way of I-Chat. That was the best idea since mixing chocolate and peanut butter! We had snow and made real attempts to banish all things depressing from the entire weekend (and that was a feat considering Friday’s shooting at our local University.)

So, for today, don’t expect any deep moral message or insightful comment about current events. I would be overestimating my ability to think you come here for real wisdom or deep insights, anyway. For today, just a simple message about expectations; a journal entry borrowed from Hannah–just a regular day in her life, a regular page in her chronicles, a regular emergence of the chosen daily message from a thousand churning ideas in her busy brain.

For young readers who are still looking for the knight in shining armor, remember that it takes time to pick him out. Don’t choose him when he’s lined up for inspection. Wait until he’s done some time in a real battle. Don’t look so much at the armor and the horse. A white horse and a coat of arms can make any “Joe” look like “the one.” Always remember that the war will one day be over. You want somebody who can stand on his own two feet when the white horse is in the stable. Enough. Here’s what Hannah wrote:

I’m reading a book called “The Romance of Arthur” for my class, The Legend of King Arthur. It’s a compilation of all the historical accounts we have of Arthurian legend. I’m absolutely loving the reading. I’m completely swept away by the tales of chivalry, bravery, true love, deception, devotion, betrayal, loyalty, and so much more–even the battle scenes are exciting to me.

Last night, as I was cramming like it was going out of style for the test I had today, I came across a quote that I had to go back and read a couple of more times because I found it beautiful. Check it out:

“Every knight in Britain who was noted for valor had clothing and arms identical in color, and the women had exquisitely matching garments. They deigned to love no man until he was three times proven in military combat. Thus, the women were made more chaste, and the knights more valiant because of their love of them.”

Beautiful. My eyes began to water as I dreamt of what that must have been like and how much better and more appreciated relationships would be today if people had to work for them—if people set them in high esteem as something to be cherished, reverenced, and placed on a pedestal.

Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but I believe men should prove themselves before I risk losing my heart to them…not in mortal combat or anything like that, but like a book must stand the test of time to become a work of literature, I think a man should stand the test of time in order to own the rights to my heart.

To sum this whole thought up, one of my favorite Bible verses:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23