Fear Not

I occasionally post thoughts from religious studies on this blog (yes, there are only 3 posts so far. I’m working on it!) This is more of a story that relates to our family though and so I think it belongs here.

I absolutely loved the book Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson. She is such an amazing lady. I started reading her blog after reading her book. Her blog always seems to be full of family traditions. I think that family traditions are incredibly important, even daily ones like bedtime stories or dinner together. Or weekly ones like Friday pizza night. She and her husband have been doing a family theme once a year, which they then have made into a beautiful poster that they hang in their home. They also give their children little ornaments with the theme on it to help them remember it. I loved this idea so much that I wanted to adopt it. A while back I started asking Kyle to think about it while he was reading the scriptures or listening to/reading speeches given by church leaders.

We finally chose our theme for the 2014-2015 year! (Just like the Nielsons, we decided to choose a new theme around the new school year which will probably be better for our children when they’re in school someday).

There is a story behind this theme and why we chose it.

It all started in 2012…..

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Yes, me as Mrs. Smith, 5th Grade Teacher.
I was hired as a 5th grade teacher in May of 2012. I was ridiculously excited. Being a teacher had been my dream since I was a little girl and to top it off, 5th grade was my dream grade. I spent the entire summer at my school (this is why I laugh when people comment on how great it is that teachers get the summers off…) trying to make the dreamiest curriculum any 5th grader had ever seen. If you are a teacher, you know how overwhelming this is. If you are not–just try to imagine being responsible for the learning of 20-30 children over the course of a year. You are required to help them learn key ideas, concepts, etc. in math, reading, writing, grammar, history, science (luckily we had a separate science teacher!). You will probably have one broad unit over the course of a month or 6 weeks (think “Revolutionary War” as a unit) that will be divided into several “lessons” (think “Boston Massacre” for a lesson). Many of these lessons are further divided as you may only have 30 minutes to teach History that day and so your one lesson may take 2-3 days to complete. You have to try to plan each unit, each lesson plan (what teacher does, what students do, how they are assessed, etc.) for each subject. You then have to gather all of the materials (or create them) that you will need. You should also probably find ways to accommodate students who have difficulty learning in one way or another as well as accommodating those who finish quickly or would like to go deeper into a subject. Pretty crazy, right? I’m not asking for sympathy right now (maybe just a little) because I love teaching. I am trying to impress upon your minds how stressed I was. First year teachers have all of this going on in their minds at the same time they are trying to decide how to decorate their classroom (pretty scary for decorating challenged people like me), what type of rules/routines their classroom will have, what their schedule should be like, etc. Basically a classroom is a miniature world and the teacher has to create it.

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My excitement quickly turned into apprehension and fear that this monstrous task was just not going to ever happen. At the beginning of the summer I optimistically thought that I would have my entire curriculum mapped out and individual lesson plans complete for the first month or two of the school year. Ha ha. That did not happen. Not for lack of trying though. It was just such a bigger task than I had originally thought. August rolled around and I was still not close to where I wanted to be. We had some beginning of the year teacher meetings about 2 weeks before school started and I really started to feel the pressure. On top of everything, I had accepted a volunteer position in our church (we say “calling”) that had a lot of responsibility and I had recently discovered I was pregnant (obviously a super happy discovery, but one that brings some sickness, fatigue, etc.) First year of teaching with heavy church responsibility and first time pregnancy! It all seemed like a heavy load.

One day I sat down in a staff meeting after a few days of training. I felt beat down and like there was no way I could accomplish what was before me–I felt certain I would fail. We started singing the opening hymn (I taught at a Private Christian school) and the third verse hit me and I knew it was God speaking to me.

“Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.”

I suddenly knew that everything was going to be okay. I knew I could do it as long as I wasn’t alone. God was with me. Everything would be okay.

I did do it. I wasn’t a perfect teacher; I wasn’t perfect in my church calling; I wasn’t a perfect wife or pregnant mother, but I did my best and it all worked out. I often asked myself at the end of a teaching day if the children knew I loved them. I had so much evidence that they did and so I thought, that is enough. That hymn has had special meaning to me since that day.

I have always believed that God speaks to all of us in individual and unique ways. I love music and so I think He often chooses that path for me. I also think that God speaks to me with words I already know. I will have a song jump into my head or the words to a scripture or quote I have memorized or read recently.

After my surgery this last May, I have felt such a wide range of emotions. We have been eager and excited to start the adoption process (we have started with lots of paperwork! More on this later) but I also felt so overwhelmed. There were different types and ways to adopt and even within that so many different agencies. Making a choice felt so difficult. The financial aspect of it seemed impossible. We were finishing up Kyle’s schooling and making a huge move. We were also trying to adjust to our new reality. When I had the surgery, we had been trying to conceive for about 4 months and so we had to shift our mindsets from the idea of having a baby sometime in the next year or so to the great unknown. We didn’t know when we would be able to afford to even start the process and then how long the process would take. I was shifting my expectations of what our family would be like. My family has siblings all close in age and I had loved that growing up and wanted it so much for my children. It was hard to give up that idea. All of this is to say that I was feeling similar feelings of confusion and fear. I felt overwhelmed. I felt like I just couldn’t do this.

One night as I was praying about these feelings, or maybe I was just thinking about them, the words to the hymn came to my mind again. God was reminding me what He had told me once before. “Fear not, I’m here. Don’t be dismayed. I am your God, I will give you aid.” (rephrased by me).

This time the words were even sweeter because of my previous experience. God told me this before and He was right. Things had been okay, He had been there for me every step of the way. My first year of teaching was a difficult year. It was full of challenges. However, with the help of the Lord, I came through it a stronger person. I know that is the case now. I am entering this new world of adoption and it is overwhelming and at times I worry and feel fear. I don’t have to though. As I remember these words, I can remember the Lord has proved Himself to me. O be not afraid!

I’m so grateful that the Lord speaks to us in ways we can hear and understand.

Our family theme for the year 2014-2015 is :

“Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,

For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.”

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