What My Students Taught Me in 1 Short Week

As I go into a new work week, I am reminding myself of some things I learned last week.

In a 5 day workweek, I learned that I need to stop being so sad and reaching the edge of depression over the fact that I spend my days with other people’s kids while I miss out on so very much of my own kids’ lives. I learned that I need to stop whining to others and to God about how much I want to be home so I can be involved with my kids’ day and so I can take care of my home the way I feel I should. I learned that I need to not whine about how I’m so exhausted by the end of the day that I can barely help my kids with their own homework. I learned that I am being incredibly selfish every time I even think about these things – every time I allow myself to feel guilty for telling my babies I can’t be there for them.

It only took 5 days for me to remember there are kids who don’t go home to parents. There are kids who leave straight from school to work (or from work to school) because they are already forced to support themselves. Some are already supporting a family they started earlier than they intended while some are working to support their parents. I was reminded that my kids have a mom and 2 dads (or 2 moms and a dad for my step-sons) who love them and help them with homework and who cook (or purchase) meals for them to ensure they have food and even snacks for every meal every day while some of my students go without. I was reminded that my kids have not 1 or 2 but THREE parents who teach them about life and God’s love, protection, salvation, and forgiveness. They go to a school where they are loved on by their teachers and learn about God in everything they do. I was reminded of how my kids have parents who protect their eyes and ears from things that rob them of their innocence and parents who want to know where they are and who they’re with at all times although we are made to feel by our kids and outsiders as if we’re horrible for being too involved and overprotective . . . all while I beat myself up at least 20 hours of the day for not being able to be involved enough. I was reminded this week that there are kids who yearn for parents to be even somewhat involved in their lives because they would at least know they’re loved. I was reminded I have students who don’t even see their parents because they live hours away from them.

I was reminded that the enemy has such a hold on people that they are willing to diminish themselves just to be able to say they have a friend or a significant other. My kids don’t get to have me at all times, but they are constantly reminded of their worth, while I have students who have never once been told they are valuable. In fact, some are consistently told of how worthless they are.

I was reminded that while we constantly worry that we’re about to have a driver in the family, there are kids who have to work hard to pay for their own broken down cars and work on them for a couple of years to get them running just so they have something to drive.

And while we spend many nights trying to figure out how we will be able to help pay for our kids to go to college, for the first time in all my years of teaching, I learned there are kids who are living in fear and hate themselves for decisions they’ve made to do something out of character and illegal in order to make money so they can one day go to college.

This week, I was reminded that I take for granted how easily we go to God whether we want to talk to him just because or whether we’re in need or  someone else is hurting or when we are excited. I was reminded that there are so many people who have no idea who he even is. I was reminded that I was called to do what I do because there is a need for someone to love on these kids and not necessarily tell them about God’s love for them but to show them.

My heart breaks for them.

My kids get that every day whether I’m with them or not. God made sure of that. I think he did that so I would be free to be what my students need.

I was reminded that I’ve missed many opportunities to do that this year and that I need to stop focusing so much on myself and take a look around me at the tears falling from the eyes of my students who are trying to do school work while real life is breaking them. I was reminded that God called me to do what I do. To go to him with discontent or whine about my situation means I’m completely missing my purpose.

This week I learned that God has placed me exactly where he wants me to be, and he has given me the opportunity to do exactly what I’ve prayed almost daily to do – to impact lives, encourage others, build confidence and help people realize their identity in Christ. I learned that my pleas for it to change have been completely in vain. I learned that all this time I have been  praying against my own prayers to be used by God in this exact way.

I’ve learned so much in just 5 short days. My students don’t realize just how much they teach me when they walk into my classroom.

An Eye For An Eye – Vengeance Is Mine

Courtesy of Disney's Inside Out - Anger

Courtesy of Disney’s Inside Out – Anger

A few days ago I posted a legitimate question on one of my social networking pages. I asked how to respond realistically but biblically when someone continues to “slap” you. I even gave the scripture of turning the other cheek when someone slaps you (Matthew 5:38-39) because I know that’s the scripture one goes to when a question like that is asked.

Turning the other cheek sounds great and all, but in real life, I need to know what that looks like and what to do when constantly being slapped in the face by the same individual. I believe my words were something like, “What do you offer up when you’ve already had both cheeks, ears, eyes, nose, mouth, arms, legs, body, feet slapped many times over?”

Let’s Be Real Here

Am I the only one who struggles with wanting to retaliate when someone blatantly hurts me, most especially when it’s a constant thing? As much as I want to be the “good Christian woman”, I have a terrible time with the follow through part of that.  You know, the turning-the-other-cheek-and-offering-help-and-love-to-the-offender part. Why is that so difficult for me?

So here I am, yet another sleepless night, and I have a million things racing through my brain. The incident that provoked this question being one of them. After 3 hours of wide eyes, I decided to have some alone time with my Daddy God. Honestly, I had nothing specific in mind as far as what scripture to read, or if I would even read it, and I had no idea what I was going to pray. The funny thing is, God always knows what we need to hear, and he lead me to a story I’ve known forever but had not heard it the way I heard it from him tonight . . . or this morning – whatever it now is.

In Genesis 37 and Genesis 50, my answer was so clearly laid out. In short:

Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him. They plotted to kill him, which changed to them deciding to throw him in a cistern to die (so they weren’t technically the ones killing him), but then they decided to sell him as a slave to some passersby, and they sold him pretty cheap, too. They came back and let their dad believe Joseph was killed by a wild animal.

Those passersby who purchased Joseph, sold him to someone else. It turns out, the one who purchased him was the captain of the guard of Pharaoh. Through many wrongs being done to him, many slaps in the face, Joseph never complained about his circumstances. He never fought back. He didn’t blame his circumstances on his brothers when he very easily could have harbored hate and anger.

Instead, what we see from Joseph is that he took every opportunity to listen to God and obey whatever he told him, and he ended up being Pharaoh’s right hand man, so to speak. God blessed him in ways he couldn’t have even imagined had his circumstances been different.

Fast forward many years, and the brothers had to depend on Joseph for provision during a famine. He gave graciously to them rather than leaving them to die just as they had intended to do for him.

The part that hit me, though, was after his father died, and his brothers came back asking to be forgiven. Let me pause from the story to be completely up front with you. I am human, and more times than I would like to admit, my flesh wins in the battle between it and my Spirit. I look at my particular situation, and I hear the “I’m sorrys” from this person, but I don’t believe them, and I may or may not say they are forgiven, but even if I say “I forgive,” that anger is still there depending on what the action was. In Joseph’s situation, it would be very difficult not to hold on to that hurt and anger.

That’s not what he did, though.  Verses 19-21 say:

Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives . . .” (NIV)

The scripture goes on to say – get ready for this one – . . . And he spoke kindly to them.

OUCH. Joseph not only provided for them when they were in need, but he forgave them for selling him as a slave, AND he did it all while speaking KINDLY to them.

Wow. I’ve failed. I’ve not only failed, but I’ve failed over and over again.

This is what the scripture in Matthew means. Someone slaps you on your left cheek, so you offer up your right. You don’t seek revenge. You love, and you offer help to them even if it’s the shirt off your back. This story of Joseph tells us exactly what that looks like in real life. It tells us that God can use any situation to save others, and it tells us that he will protect us in all situations if we just allow him to. Are we really allowing him to protect us and utilize us if we are angry and yelling and constantly thinking about yet another way we were wronged by the same person?

How are we to reach people if that’s where we stay? How can we focus on others if we are constantly fighting that same battle with that same person – or any battle to defend ourselves against those who have wronged us, for that matter?

We can’t.

I don’t know if the story of Joseph speaks to you in the way it spoke to me, but I hope this speaks to someone out there who might feel like they’ve been kicked down too many times and are at a loss for how to defend themselves. Our society today so quickly jumps at the opportunity to cause an uproar when they feel they are being wronged. I’m guilty of it. I won’t pretend I’m above that. None of us want to be wronged, and it seems unrealistic to “turn the other cheek.”

Step with me outside of society’s way of thinking, and let’s give it a try. Don’t hang on to it. Don’t talk about it constantly. Don’t let your mind drift back to it throughout the day. And . . . speak kindly each time you speak to that person. Let’s see how life changes for us. I’m ready. How about you?

Teacher, Coach, Entrepreneur, Parent, Mentor. . .Are You As Effective As You Think? 3 Questions That Will Make or Break You as a Motivator.


According to audioenglish.org, the noun MOTIVATOR has only 1 sense:  “a positive motivational influence” (emphasis added).

I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past day or so because I surround myself with many types of people who are viewed as motivators.  I consider my own self to be a motivator in certain areas as well.

A motivator’s intentions are to positively motivate others in specific areas.  Let’s break it down with our handy dandy thesaurus (Thesaurus.com).
**A motivator’s intentions are to

  • EXCITE others
  • INSPIRE others
  • PROPEL others
  • SPARK (ignite a fire in) others
  • LEAD others
  • MOVE others

 These Questions Will Make or Break You as a Successful Motivator

We all have the opportunity to motivate on some level.  It’s vital that those of us who portray ourselves as motivators (spiritually, academically, physically, nutritionally, etc.) always ask ourselves 3 questions before submitting that next text, email, private message, status update, advertisement or verbal communication:

1. What is it that truly moves me to excel at the things I might typically struggle to do because the want to just isn’t fully there?

When asking yourself this question, be honest.  Are you motivated long term by money, genuine compassion, someone yelling in your face about what you’re doing wrong, someone being condescending toward you [belittling you] to push you into becoming better, someone giving you praise at even your smallest achievements and attempts, someone telling you how much they believe in you, someone doing what you’re doing alongside of you . . . ?  The list can go on for miles.  Ultimately, you’ll land on what you find to be your strongest motivator that helps you become a better you, and when that motivator is no longer in the picture, you can still find yourself being successful.

When asking this question, it’s also important to understand you are not the one who determines what motivates others.  Every person is different, and a good motivator knows how to make adjustments for different people and in different settings.  What works for you might not work for the person you are trying to motivate.  In the same regard, what works for that person you’re currently motivating, very well may not work for his or her friend who comes to you tomorrow in search of a push toward the same type of excellence.

2. Are my words meant to encourage or discourage?

This is a big one for so many of us.  I remember when I began teaching, I had gone through all those years of school being taught, “You can never start out easy and move to being strict.  It’s better to start off overly strict and ease up.”  That’s how I began my teaching career, and that first year was just not fun for the students or me.  I was not . . . ME. . . Yes, I have very high expectations of my students and those I coach in the fitness world, but I was taking on the persona of those who came before me as well as the one who mentored me, and I was downright mean and very well may have damaged some kids in the process.

I feel certain I did not motivate anyone that year to excel at Spanish or to become a teacher or, well, anything.  I don’t feel I inspired a single student that year.  Why?  Because 1) I was trying to be someone I’m not and 2) it’s very difficult for someone to genuinely be moved by such harsh words and what I’m sure appeared to be a heart with little to no compassion.

In the 14+ years I’ve lead, taught, mentored, coached people, I’ve learned that absolutely no one is motivated long term by those types of things.  In fact, that’s where many completely lose any bit of desire they had to excel in whatever area it is.

3. Do I know this person’s story?

That person you’re talking to – the one you’re trying to motivate – the person who is silently watching and trying to muster up the nerve to even approach you about bettering herself – do you know whether or not she has struggled with some serious issues in her past where your sarcastic or curt words could feel to her as verbal abuse or even bring back old memories or tendencies that she has worked so hard to overcome?  If you don’t know the answer to this question, you might want to really consider your marketing plan before putting it out there.

The fact is, you don’t know the stories behind everyone who comes into your class, home, social networking world, or place of business.  You don’t even know what kind of day people have had, and your words are meant to inspire not degrade.

We can’t walk on eggshells because we’re too afraid to hurt someone’s feelings, but at the same time we can be smart and sensitive to the fact that there are people with all different kinds of stories who cross our paths, and if we present ourselves as a “go-to” person for motivation, then we must also be considerate in our motivational techniques.  Even things you wouldn’t take as being hurtful may very well be hurtful to someone else.  We absolutely must think about these things first.

Quick personal example: I remember someone just a year or two ago who came up to me and went on and on about how teeny tiny I was and proceeded to tell me that I need to be counting calories and I should be using this special app to make sure I’m eating enough, and I need to start focusing on adding such and such to my diet this many times a day so I could gain weight.

That may sound like nothing to you.  However, it was very difficult for me.  In the first place, I never asked this person for her advice or thoughts.  I actually had never even met this person but she was a friend of a friend, and we were at the same event.  Second, I was already lifting heavy, taking supplements, and eating enough for a family of 5 during that time in order to try to gain muscle, and I can’t help that God created me as a small person.  Lastly, she had no idea that I had struggled with eating and counting calories and weighing myself in the past or that I had already attempted twice to use that special app, but I saw those tendencies from my past coming back, and I knew it wasn’t smart for me to use it.  She also didn’t know that I had for the first time in my life loved my body and the way I felt inside and outside but had recently started struggling with it again because of a few similar remarks from loved ones, so hearing someone I had never met go on for what seemed like days while I could feel my chest burning because I was working so hard to keep the tears from making an appearance came really close to sending me over the edge causing me to quit anything related to fitness altogether.  Yes, I did consider that on several occasions after hearing what, to me, were incredibly negative comments about myself.

This instance wasn’t even something as serious as some things I’ve seen happening to others, but I think it gives you an idea of how the things we say can really negatively affect those who look up to us as motivators just as much as it can positively affect them.

Our goal is to motivate – to challenge and push as we influence, inspire, encourage, and move someone into a positive direction.