Saturday, January 1, 2011

Words & Videos Edition

Have you ever heard the saying, “words are power”? This concept has been going through my mind since late October. I started teaching my students a new vocabulary word every day to go along with the books I read to them out loud. Some of the words have included elated, rascal, fumbling, and so on. We call them our second grade words or million dollar words and I encourage them to use them as often as they can during the day. It was only after a week of me directly teaching them new, higher level words that I saw them trying to use these words in their writing, talking, and whenever they could. They took so much pride in being able to use new words. This instructional time is, for most of them, their favorite part of the day. I didn’t truly understand how much they thirsted for new ways to express themselves and the things around them. Seeing how teaching them one new word a day gave them so much pride and opened so may doors for them really opened my eyes to how important words are.

A few other things have also spurred a renewed fondness for words. First, I have fallen victim to an addicting word game known as Bananagrams. I would describe it as a more organic form a Scrabble. Here is a fun video to give you a visual aid.

Second, I have really been struggling to communicate what I am actually feeling, experiencing, and thinking. (Maybe this is why I have not posted in over a month?). I constantly am searching for that perfect word to describe exactly what I feel, to better understand the often surreal-reality called life and my surroundings, and to honestly grasp what is running through my head. The realization that I will never know enough words, never be able to speak the perfect word, or never truly understand life (apart from Christ), hit me earlier this morning (see next paragraph for where I got my inspiration). Hence, I write. In broken and habitually non-standard English using the same words over again to describe different experiences. It is like using the same old paints to paint distinctive pieces of artwork. It can be done. I has been done. It just takes more work.

Thirdly, being home I got to spend a lot of time with my … hmmm there I am at a loss for words to describe him. I would say boyfriend but really, is that all he is to me? What does that word even really mean in society today? I am not sure. I would have to go with my beloved brother in Christ to whom I am committed to, and especially fond of, Kevin. Now, Kevin is from Brazil and English is his second language. He understands English really well but inevitably there are sometimes confusing moments due to communication breakdowns/barriers. I have come to see how even though words are extremely priceless, to possess the modesty to struggle through and communicate even when you don’t have the perfect word is noble. So, here I am, inspired by Kevin – struggling to communicate what has happened the past month to whoever you are, wherever you are, reading this.

Last I would like to also note what I have been learning about words through scripture. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue can bring death or life.” And Ephesians 4:29 “May they speak life with each word they utter, bringing healing as they talk. May their language be Yours, Lord?” Our words have power, whether we know millions of words or only a few. My affection for words is growing deeper with each day. I ache for each word I speak to not only sound “eloquent” or “intelligent” but I desire them to be uplifting.

An article I read online by Nan S. Russel said, “Words create impressions, images and expectations… Poorly chosen words can kill enthusiasm, impact self-esteem, lower expectations and hold people back. Well chosen ones can motivate, offer hope, create vision, impact thinking and alter results.”

That all being said: welcome to the Words & Videos edition of this blog. All definitions will be taken from the dictionary application on my MacBook Pro.

:::Nebraska |nəˈbraskə| noun a state in the central U.S., west of the Missouri River; pop. 1,711,263; capital, Lincoln; statehood, Mar. 1, 1867 (37). It was acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. :::

The above definition doesn’t properly describe Nebraska. Since I have left Nebraska, after spending the first 22 years of my life in the beloved state, I have spent many of my days in Mississippi trying to really pinpoint what it is about Nebraska that I hold so dearly. Since returning home for Thanksgiving break and Christmas break I compiled a short list of what makes my heart ache when I am not there and what still brings a smile to my face. They all came down the fact that Nebraska is home.

:::responsible |riˈspänsəbəl| adjective [ predic. ] applies to anyone who is in charge of an endeavor or to whom a duty has been delegated, and who is subject to penalty or blame in case of default :::

When I stepped off the plane during Thanksgiving break on onto Nebraska soil I felt the stress of work, responsibility, and adulthood melt off my neck. It was the most refreshing feeling. When I am in Mississippi I am an adult. When I am in Nebraska I go back to being a sister, a daughter, a granddaughter, and most refreshingly, Sally. Ms. Wolff takes a break and the not-so-serious side of myself gets to come out. Being home also has a few other perks including the crisp well-water, “expensive” toilet paper, hometown coffee shops, and small-town good-hearted people.

:::candid |ˈkandid| adjective truthful and straightforward; frank:::

I have found that often I feel like I like two lives. The life I live in Mississippi feels so disconnected to my life when I come back home. One thing is constant, wherever I am I honestly desire that my words be uplifting and bring life whenever I speak… but I have realized recently more then ever that my words rarely match what I am thinking or aching to say. At home I rarely speak like I write on here. On this blog I try to be as candid and honest to who I am and I honestly believe who I am is only who Christ is in me. Yet, when I am at home it is so hard for me to talk about my faith, truth or the gospel wholeheartedly. I seem to be much better with words when I am writing. It is my prayer that my words would be always spoken with grace and that the Lord would grant me more opportunities to share how he is working in my life down here in the south.

:::highlights |ˈhīˌlīt| noun outstanding parts of an event or period of time:::

The past few months have been full of humility, moments of praise, and laughter. Here are a few highlights:

  1. We were Library Class of The Month in November
  2. I started after school tutoring and have gotten to know a few of the kids a little better though it
  3. I now have a cat named THELMA! Her previous owners just a baby and were looking to get rid of both their cats. Louise found a new home a few months ago.
  4. My lowest reader, Tamarah, is now reading and is doing better in spelling. I am not sure what happened, it was not short of a miracle. One day she just showed up and started reading!
  5. Plane rides are never boring. God is faithful to draw me out of my comfort zone and really get to know the people I sit next to. I have some interesting stories but they are better told in person. There is an unspeakable peace when I fly.
  6. My roommate Sarah and I took a weekend trip to New Orleans to visit my friend Kelsey. Strange place that New Orleans is. I am still trying to find words to describe it. I tasted my first bit of frozen yogurt, rode my first street car and experienced a surreal movie-like scene on the edge of the Mississippi river. We walked past a couple yelling at the top of their lungs in the middle of a heated fight, without shoes and with tousled hair. Only to run into a man pushing a stroller at 11p.m. Don’t worry though, he was merely “walking” his dog. Then as I listened to the dispute behind me I looked down by the river bank to see an older couple walking peacefully along the beach hand in hand. There were so many strange things to take in all at once I couldn’t even come close to make sense of it all. It is in moments like those that I realize I will never fully understand what drives us as people.
  7. Had a Bake-A-Thon with my roommate Angie. We baked over four hundred cookies all together in one weekend. I felt domestic.
  8. I got to talk to my kids about Jesus Christ and the reason we celebrate Christmas. That next Friday turned out to be the most interesting day I had as a teacher.
  9. I have been praying about a ministry called Tiny Hands International and how to get more involved after my commitment is done with TFA.
  10. Traveled home for Christmas break and hung out with friends, spent time with family, and even saw animated wood-carvings on a date-day with my Dad.Learned a few new card games, sewed an apron, made some music videos and finished a few good books: “Passion and Purity” by Elisabeth Elliot and “Revolution in World Missions” by K.P. Yohannan.


The past month I have spent some time making a few videos with my friends. Click each link below to view my videos on youTube. Some are school related and others are just for fun. I hope they bring a smile to your face and laughter to your belly! Note: If you right click on each link you can open them in a new window.

A Quick Tour Of Ms. Wolff's Classroom

1st Semester Montage With Program Performances

Christmas This Year - reverse Christmas music video

Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree - with my cousins

Lipgloss - ridiculous music video with friends

Domestic Me - Sewing Edition: Making Aprons*

*click on the one titled "Domestic Me". The direct link on youTube has disabled the audio so this is my round-about way for you to see it with the music.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

As Sweet As Honey


The past few weeks I have felt as if I was riding on a slow moving escalator in the middle of a busy airport. I see people rushing around to get here or there; people stressed out, confused, alone, excited, and almost always a bit jaded. As I move about each day I can’t help but realize that this life is really just a moment in the whole scheme of eternity. My current struggles seem quite trivial when I take a step back and realize just how massive our world really is and even more so when I get a glimpse of just how huge my God is. There is so much going on underneath the surface. There is so much going on in the realm of the unseen but it is so much easier to focus on the seen. In the past few weeks I have been really challenged to just stop and take a step back and realize all the blessings and opportunities that the Lord has given me since moving to the Delta.

My friend Lisa said it well when we were talking on Skype one morning. She is teaching in Indonesia and we were talking about time and just how elusive and relative it often feels. She said, “Life seems so short but each day seems so long.” Lisa went on to talk about how the scriptures says God will be with us all the days of our life, but literally is says he will walk with us through each and every day. Isn’t that a beautiful picture of just how intimate and personal our God is? He does care. He cares enough about our life, which apart from him and the work of his son Jesus Christ is so insignificant, to walk with us through each and every step, each and every day.


Last weekend I was planning on heading down to New Orleans to visit my lovely friend Kelsey, however after making the road trip down to Texas the weekend before I chose to stay home and get some solid planning done. Friday was hard and I tucked myself into my bed at 7pm not to wake until 7am the next day. I had to take my car to the shop because it was making strange noises every time I turned left. I am starting to think that car repair shops are the same everywhere you go. You meet a lot of the same types of people that work there, good hard-working folk that don’t mind small talk and the businesses always have a few pots of coffee, a place to sit with a few T.V.’s and free popcorn in the corner. It was a brisk morning and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to meet a few locals. Sometimes I forget what it means to be a person. I get so caught up in being a teacher that I forget what it looks like to simply live in a town and a community.

On Halloween and my roommate Kim and I decided to make the hour trip to South Haven for some Olive Garden and a trip to the bookstore. Then Sunday my other roommate Angie took me to Arkansas to visit a family she go to know pretty well last year. We got to eat some good home cookin’ and hang out on the farm all day. I grew pretty fond of their new kitten and almost tucked it away in my book bag before we left. I have wanted a pet since the first day I moved into my house, but am still trying to decide if I am really responsible enough to take on such a liability.


This week I started focusing on teaching my kids higher level vocab words each day. It has been such a blast to see them get excited about learning new words and even start using them in their writing already. On Tuesday I was observed by my principal and she was so supportive about the changes that I have made in my classroom. She said that she was impressed with how far I have come and how far my kids have come. I am still skeptical and I see how much more I have to grow in order to be an effective teacher, however her support is invaluable. This year would be so hard if I did not have her support or the support of my lead teacher. I am so thankful for them. She finished the conversation by saying, “You should be proud of your hard work and how far your students have come.”


The days are still pretty hard and even though I can see how my body is wasting away every day, I continue to pray that my spirit would be renewed each day (2 Cor. 4:16). I am starting to get to know my roommates more and more and another second year teacher named Megan. I pray the Lord would continue to mold my friendship here in Mississippi. I am not sure what he has planned but I pray that I would be faithful in loving and serving the people around me. I have been laughing more lately and have started dancing randomly again, I think this is a good sign that I am starting to feel comfortable in my own skin again.


In elementary school I remember always wanting to give my teacher presents. I always wanted to find the perfect gift, which usually consisted of something with a vibrant red apple painted on it or some teacher memorabilia. A few times I have wondered when the day would come that I would receive my first teacher gift. That day came on Thursday. One of my students told me that she had something for me in her book bag. I told her that before we left for the day she could give it to me. I had called her mother the day before asking for a note to be sent to school so her daughter could stay and work with me one-on-one during afterschool tutoring, so naturally I assumed this is what she had in her bag to give to me. At the end of the day she came up to me told me that her mom had put this in her bag to give to me. I looked down expecting a note only to see sitting in her hands a bag of dried jerky. I took the gift a bit confused and gently asked her if she also had a note in her bag for me. She responded with a confident, “Nope. But my mom told me to give that to you.” I said thank you and sent her on her journey to catch her bus. Not what I expected to receive as my first teacher-gift, but hey, I can’t really complain, I love jerky.


Friday night I took some of my friends out to my host-parents house, The Richardsons. We had family night bible study and then ate some good southern cooking. It is al

ways so refreshing to be around all of them. The stars were so phenomenal and the night was energizing. It was good to have my TFA friends meet them because I talk about them all the time. It is nice when two different parts of my life get to intertwine.


I am starting to realize more and more God’s faithfulness in where I am right now. When I was overwhelmed last week Kelsey texted me something that really stuck with me. She said, “God doesn’t waste his resources. You are where you are supposed to be.” So many times I feel as if my presence here in the Delta is not making a bit of difference. I feel pretty replaceable. Often I struggle with speaking truth to those who do not know or believe in Jesus Christ. I have never really been all that shy or quiet about my faith. But lately I have seen myself starting to hold my tongue when I should be taking leaps of faith and speaking the truth unapologetically. The past week though, God has shown me that even when I am not faithful he is faithful. Across the street I have great neighbors that are so encouraging, I have been blessed with a beautiful home with compassionate roommates, a room with a fireplace and a warm bed, a host-family that cares about me as if I was their own, and friends from CU and TFA that never quit showing how much they love me. Not to mention the support of my family from back home. I have it pretty easy. Even on the hardest days I know that what I am going through is really not that bad. I am stressed, crushed, and overwhelmed, but not destroyed for I know that my God is with me and he is alive in me (2 Corinthians 4:8-12).


Saturday night all of my friends from The Last Supper Club made the drive to come see me. I went to the store early Saturday morning to get stuff to stick in a few crock pots. The menu: bbq pulled pork, little smokies, chips and queso, bbq baked beans, and s’mores. We ate, laughed, read books aloud to each other, played some guitar, sat by the fire, and shared life. Oh, how I am so thankful that the Lord has blessed me with such a crazy, diverse group of friends. We are so different yet we can enjoy each other and respect each other so much. I feel like in any other circumstance most of us would not be friends, but we make such a beautifully awkward family whenever we come together. I can only imagine what God may have in store for us in the next year-and-a-half.


Planning is still hard. It is hard to live a balanced life and yet be a teacher. There is always more to be done. However, I really do enjoy it. I love seeing it when the kids have a light bulb moment. I have seen so many miracles in my room the past few weeks. Aieryun, my terror at the beginning of the year is now my star student. He asks to carry my lunch pail for me every day and he has ended on SUPER BLUE (the highest color on our behavior chart) for five days in a row. Tamarah who is almost a year behind the rest of the class scored a 95% on her spelling test on Friday. She even answered a question in front of the class in a complete sentence. It’s the little miracles that get me through each day. I pray that the Lord would take control of every part of my day, my teaching, and my classroom.


I wrote this in my journal a few months ago and just re-read it again today.

“Redeem me from the oppression of man. That I may keep your precepts. Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes. My eyes have shed streams of water, because they do not keep your law.” Psalm 119:134-136

I pray that the Lord would shine his face on me and on those around me. May we be broken over our sin but find freedom in his grace. I have tasted life and it is sweeter than honey. I pray that he would continue to satisfy my heart for he truly does taste so much better than anything this world has to offer. I pray that he would sustain you and may his grace and peace be with you as you read this. May he show all of us how to be his hands and his feet.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Drink Deep: Wonderful weekend

This is a post by MaryLou about my trip to Waco, TX. She did a pretty good job summing up our weekend so I figured I would just refer ya'll to her blog! It was so refreshing and encouraging to see her again. We have known each other since middle school and have been pretty good friends since the end of high school and eventually became roommates in college for our Junior and Senior years. During this trip I also got to see my other sister from Concordia, Hannah. She is such an encouragement to me and I was elated to see her as well! It was a much needed break from teaching. I took Friday off, hit the road on Thursday night with the lovley Abby, a TFA friend and spent the weekend in good ole' Texas.

Drink Deep: Wonderful weekend: "I'm not sure if I can really say how awesome this weekend was! Sally came into Waco late Thursday night and I met up with her as soon as my ..."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Restless, Till I Rest In You

:::Sick Day:::

Skipping school as a teacher is almost more enjoyable and satisfying than skipping school as a student. I can say this now with first hand experience from both positions. As a student you must play catch up and track down missed notes, assignments, and tests. As a teacher you still have make up work to do and due to lost time there is a greater urgency the rest of the week to make sure everything gets covered, however, after taking my first sick day on Tuesday, I feel the cost/benefit of a much needed sick day is well worth it. All day Monday I could feel a cold coming on. My head was heavy and my throat was sore. Then Tuesday morning hit and I could barely get out of bed. I was exhausted, so I called my principal and told her I was sick. She graciously told me that I sounded horrible and I needed to go back to sleep. After I hung up the phone I tucked myself back in under my oversized white comforter and did not wake until 12:30pm.

It was such a blessing to stay home, get some rest and really just allow myself to take a break. I still did school work, but it was work that was not too draining like printing resources and making some few posters. I even got to talk to one of my sisters from Concordia that had just gotten back from Uganda. It was so awesome to talk to her in the middle of the day! God is good and his timing was so perfect. It was a blessing to hear about her trip and really catch up.

:::Field Trip:::

Friday marked the date of my first real filed trip as a teacher. The kindergarten and first grade classes all went to a place called Cedar Hill Farm. It is a pumpkin patch about an hour away from our school and is the same patch that my friend Kelsey and I went to a few weeks ago. The kids were so well behaved and loved the farm so much. I started the day with 17 and ended the day with 17 (two of my 19 kids were not able to come)– I feel like that was an accomplishment in and of itself. Not to mention I had no injuries, no one got lost, and while we were on the bus ride to the farm my class all started singing different songs I had taught them during the beginning of the school year. They started with the days of the week, followed by the months of the year, and then proceeded to make up new songs about addition and subtraction. I asked them why they started singing and they said they wanted to grow their brains even while they were riding the bus! They even answered different subtraction and addition problems while in line to ride the train.

A few weeks ago a few girls started pressuring me to allow them to learn and grow their brains at lunch. These kids are really developing a love for learning wherever they are at and if that is all they take from me these first nine weeks that I will be so thankful. One girl always looks at me and says, “Ms. Wolff, we can learn at lunch?”. After I nod in agreement she always responds, “Don’t forget your white board, we really need to work our brains. I love learning Ms. Wolff.”

:::Sweet Sister Time:::

My lovely big sister made the 10-hour trip down for the weekend to visit and just to chill. This is the first weekend my sister and I have ever spent together just the two of us. we went on a morning bike ride, visited the farmers market, ate at my new favorite fast-food joint Back-Yard Burger, tried out the latest local restaurant called Lady on the Levy, stopped by Morgan Freeman’s bar, ate some cheesecake while watching a few episodes of Cake Boss and then hit the hay. Then early Sunday morning we made some toast and tried some of the jam and jellies we bought from the farmers market, went and played catch at a local park, decorated my room, and then ate some Philly cheese-stakes at a town favorite known as Big Mamma’s convince store.

We can now officially call ourselves sisters. We spent a good chunk of a weekend together and didn’t argue once. I think this means we are both growing up. It was nice to be able to hang out with her and have someone to simply spend time with that didn’t want to talk about school or work the whole time. It is really necessary for teachers to have non-teacher friends. Trust me on this one.

:::Restless Till I Rest In You:::

This song has been stuck in my head a lot this week. Each day I am realizing more and more I don’t really know how to rest but I do know that the only way I will find this all-so-illusive rest that I seek is in the Lord. Some mornings I feel so nervous and restless about teaching until I stop and remind myself that I will always feel unsettled, unprepared, and inadequate if I rely on myself or on my own abilities. The only time I feel at rest is when I am resting in the arms of my Maker. But the real question is how do I rest in the shadow of the Almighty? I know I may never fully know the answer to this question but I am on a daily pursuit to understand it more and more what it looks like to rest in Him and Him alone.

I am also trying to find the balance between asking others for help and seeking feedback and input from other teachers and also turning to God for answers. I mean it is His classroom after all and he knows these kids I am teaching better than anyone else because He created them. However, I know so often I go to Him last. I seek His wisdom last and forget to petition before the Lord. I allow my anxieties and fears to control instead of submitting my requests to God. I know so often I ask other people what I should do and seek the solution from man instead of from the Lord. That being said, please pray that I would continue to seek the wisdom of the Lord and that I would really seek His face. He is our maker and Lord, but he is also my loving Heavenly Father. May I run to sit on His lap and rest in His embrace.

Psalm 91:1

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

One Day At A Time

A lot has happened since the last time I posted and I am sorry I am not very punctual or consistent with my writing. This post will be an attempt to simply scratch the surface of the last three weeks.


As a teacher in a failing school there are always people coming in and out of my classroom. The district has hired a lot of consultants to come in and help us get our school “back on track”. People from all different places and organizations will stop by my room just to watch me teach and it is becoming a norm having strangers in my room observing me and providing feedback on different aspects of my teaching.

Every week I try to go in with at least one thing I want to do better. Finding one thing at a time that I can improve on each week and problem solving for that one thing only has helped me stay sane. I think I would go crazy if I allowed myself to see all the things I am not all that affective at right now. There is always something more I could be doing or something I should be doing better.

That being said, God has provided some much needed encouragement and support the last few months. A few weeks ago I was observed by an educational resource specialist from Ole’ Miss and she was so supportive. After her observation she left a note saying that she loved my classroom and found it to be a refreshing learning environment followed by a request for me to email her some of my routines and attention getters. She even went and talked to my lead teacher and principal and told them how much she loved my classroom and wrote, “Ms. Wolff, I would love to have my child in your classroom” which is the highest form of flattery any teacher could receive, in my opinion.

Here are a videos of my kids. Check it out.

Morning Routine

It is my prayer that I would not live or thrive on these compliments or on the opinions of man, but I would continue to seek approval from the Lord first and foremost. It is nice to hear others affirm that all your hard work is not in vain, but I pray that I would remember why and Who I teach for. Yes, I am in Teach For America, but in reality the only reason I can teach is because my Maker has given me the opportunity, the life, the brains, the abilities, and a heart full compassion and grace to do so. It is because of Him and through Him alone that I can teach.

:::One Day At A Time:::

Each day the sun rises over the cotton fields of Mississippi and I get to see its vibrant orange glow slink above the horizon every morning on my way to school. It is a consistent reminder that every day is a new day and God’s grace, mercy, love, and strength is supplied to me undeservingly. People ask me how I am doing and all I can find to say is, “I am living one day at a time.” This has become my new battle cry. Yesterday may have been a nightmare, but today is a new day and I am going to do with THIS day all that I can.

::: To Sum It All Up:::

In the past few weeks I …

1. made a mess of my room trying to plan for the next day. Almost every night my bedroom becomes my office and overflows with teaching supplies and resources.

2. played my guitar while jumping on a trampoline at my host parents house.

3. visited friends in Greenville and Indianola for a few more meetings of what now has been tagged as "The Last Supper Club". These wonderful friends are also first year teachers in TFA. I met most of them during institute and have gotten to be pretty close friends with them.

4. have grown tired of hearing kids call me Ms. Wolff during lunch. Sometimes, I just want to eat my rice made with coconut milk and peanuts in a corner, just so I can forget that I am a teacher.

5. have become quite excited about the flexibility of being a teacher. I am the only one in control of what happens in my classroom. Yes, my school or principal may place certain demands or restrictions on me, but in all reality I am the only one to blame or to praise if things go wrong or go right. I am starting to like this responsibility.

6. swam across an oxbow of the Mississippi River. It took about an hour but my friend and I made it all the way across the oxbow and lived to tell about it.

7. received several packages from home! I love snail mail. People from home are so encouraging. Letters, emails, and phone calls always seem to show up when I need them most.

8. have gone on several evening bike rides with friends

9. saw a movie crew set up camp across the street. A movie to come out in April is being filmed in the Delta and the cast and crew set up their “Star Trailers” in a parking lot and at a local grocery store down the street from my house. If you would like to hear more about the movie check this article. "The Help" To Start Filming In Mississippi.

10. finally bought flour at the store. I think this means I am officially a grown-up. I baked cookies, pumpkin muffins, and an egg enchilada. I feel that is a step up from my former cereal and pizza weekly dinners.

11. went on my first business trip and stayed in a hotel all by myself. I even woke up early to iron my clothes before the conference. Then I proceeded to take the mini-soaps and a few tea bags from the continental breakfast. Classy right?

:::Full Of Joy:::

So, that just about catches you up to this past week. I have discovered that I love sticking my left foot out the window while I am driving. The Mississippi heat is a bit more bearable when one foot is setting comfortably above one of side-view mirrors of the beloved Oldsmobile.

One of my dear sisters from Concordia came to visit me over the weekend. Kelsey is also in TFA and made the trip up from New Orleans to hang out with me all day Saturday and Sunday. Saturday we stopped in Tunica to get some renowned Blue & White Donuts, a Dr. Pepper, and some fried green tomatoes before we made our way to South Haven. It is so rejuvenating to be around someone that really knows me. We stopped at the mall and went shopping, bought some pretty sweet specs, and then headed toward Memphis to find a place to sleep.

We finally found a place to set up camp under the stars at a campground on the east side of Memphis and since we didn’t have a tent, we laid out our blankets and pillows, said a prayer, and went to sleep hoping that we would both be there in the morning. When we woke up we had some left over donuts and headed to the oh-so-famous Beale Street and ended our time together by listening to an audio-sermon and walking around a local pumpkin patch. Something strange happens when Kelsey and I get together. We are almost too alike and often I think we become a gruesome-twosome when our humor and sarcasm are mixed together; funny things always seem to happen when she is around.

:::Seasoned With Salt:::

This is what I have been thinking and praying for the past week or so.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." - Colossians 4:2-6

I am praying for divine appointments with my co-workers and other TFA'ers. The past few weeks I have had opportunities to get to know the people around me and have had some really great conversations. God continues to allow me to open my heart to them but so often I do now really know what to say. I just keep praying Colossians 4:2-6 and cry out for wisdom.

TFA and teaching in general provides some really fertile soil for the gospel to be planted. People who are naturally intelligent, leaders, with a heart to serve often start teaching and find that they fall flat on their face. Working with kids is one of the most humbling things I have ever done. I see my sins and fragility more than ever before. Sometimes, I really just have no clue how to teach these little children to read and I definitely see my inability to show unconditional love, grace, and mercy to these kids. Often I pray that God would just burn the information they need into their little brains while they sleep.

An excerpt from an email I wrote to a friend this morning: Something I am continually learning is I AM SO SELFISH... and I FEAR MAN MORE THAN GOD... but I want to be renewed and cleansed from both of these sins. I so long to be blameless and a tool for the cross of Christ. I love him... yet I live as if I don't know him sometimes... but all I really desire is for the people around me -myself included actually- to live in the freedom of Christ. I just am so tired of seeing the enemy trap people.... lie to people and convince people of false hope in the world, themselves, or specific sins. JESUS is the only thing that can satisfy... and He is more than enough. But how do I tell others about this wonderful thing that has happened? How do I tell people about this lover of my soul... oh how I pray for divine intervention with every conversation, interaction, and movement because I can't do it on my own.

I woke up this morning not wanting to uncurl from the fetal position. I did not want to get out of bed for I knew that once I got up I would feel compelled to do work. I was overcome with a sense of loneliness. I am starting to realize that loneliness makes people do strange things to try to fill the void or mute the strange pain in the stomach and ache in the heart. I know I am not alone, but even two Krispy Kreme donuts and two muffins couldn’t comfort me. I spent the next two hours reading my Bible on my back porch trying to listen to the Lord, longing for Him to affirm who I am in Christ.

Whenever I am reminded of this love God has for me I can’t help but worship. Isn’t it crazy that Jesus has burned His way into my heart! I still don’t understand what or how it happened, I just see the evidences of His spirit dwelling inside of me. I know I am His because my heart testifies to the love I have received from Him but I am not satisfied with my portion of God. I want more of Him and I want to know what it means to decrease so He can increase in me. I am so thankful for salvation and this love undeserving that He continues to wash me in. It is in this freedom that I live, move, and walk in everyday. It is for freedom He set us free.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

:::Take A Breath Or Two:::

:::One Day At A Time:::
Most days I feel as if I am running up a down escalator. My mind always seems to be thinking about school, my classroom, my students, and analyzing how much I really don't know. Teaching in the Delta is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I have never felt so inadequate and unaccomplished, so alone and unprepared. Some days my kids board the bus after the final bell rings and I fear the only thing they internalized that day was the free lunch. I feel so overwhelmed I do not even know where to start. There are good days and there are bad days, and at the end of each week I am confronted with how behind they are and how much more they still have to learn in order to be ready for second grade. I can only pray that I will be able to prepare them for next year.

I have to continue to let go of what I think is best for my classroom and seek the Lord. In all reality my classroom is not mine at all. It is His. I was given this opportunity through His grace and so many times I try to do things my own way. Every time I fall flat on my face. The mornings I have started out on my knees have been unarguably the best. Each day I realize more and more that I cannot do this by myself.

Another corps member said the other day that his biggest fear is that his kids will impact him during these two years more than he will impact them. What he meant by that is he fears when he leaves the Delta, instead of impacting and changing his kids for the better they will have made such an impact that he was changed for the worse. I really understand what he is saying. Teaching requires so much patience and humility. Some days the ugliest parts of me come out. I get frustrated, angry, annoyed, cynical, etc. It is my prayer that through the tough days I would not become a more hellish creature, but I would become more heavenly. I pray that each experience would refine me. May I continue to die to myself so that Christ may live in me. May I decrease as He increases in me.

:::America's Pastime:::
My roommate Sarah and I went to a Memphis Redbirds game one weekend. It was like being back home. Baseball is the same wherever you are. The rules are the same, the food is the same, the smell is the same, even the fans are the same, whether you are in Nebraska, Mississippi, or Tennessee. It was comforting to be around something familiar. I haven't felt something familiar for a long time. I only get the familiar taste of home once in a while, whether it be snail mail from family and friends, my Dad's popcorn still left over from a month ago, a few phone calls and video chats with friends and family, or the taste of Grandma Betty's muffins early in the morning. So much of my day-to-day life is foreign to me. I feel like I am a visitor. The baseball game was relaxing. Redbirds won 9-0, and I enjoyed my first chili dog at a minor league baseball game.

:::Read In The Rain:::
One Sunday it was pouring outside. My roommate and I sat on the back porch and read our books for a few hours, I played the guitar, and just relaxed. It was a beautiful time. Then we went to a Bible study at the black Baptist church in town. It was such a wonderful night! Some girls came over for Bible Study and we talked about this youTube video... check it out :)

:::Pay Day:::
So, it is official. I am a working woman. I received my first paycheck from the district last Friday. For the past three months I have felt as if I have been volunteering for TFA, now I actually feel like teaching is my job, not something I happen to do five days a week.

:::Shattered Glass:::
Last Wednesday turned out to be an interesting night full of tears that lead to a retched headache that lasted through Thursday morning. I had just returned from the store with a load full of groceries. I cleaned out the freezer to make room and went outside to dump the trash. On my way back into my house I tripped on the steps and fell through the glass door. I stood up in shock. The glass was safety glass so it shattered into pebble sized pieces. The noise was so loud. It was such a surreal moment. I only had a few cuts and scratches on my hands and arms. I praise the Lord that the damage was pretty insignificant, but this was my breaking point. I had not cried since I started teaching at Lyon so I had quite the reservoir of tears built up. That night when I finally decided to open the floodgates they took an hour before I had no more water. I sobbed and sobbed and could not stop. It was refreshing to finally break down. So often I pretend that things are okay. I harden my heart and hide my feelings. But Wednesday was a beautiful wake up call for me. I was broken and it was beautiful. It was the headache (a.k.a. the cry hangover) the next day I could have done without.

:::Stuffed French Toast and Friends:::
Last weekend was full of surprises and little pockets of rest. We had Labor Day off and I took full advantage of the long weekend. My roommates went on a trip to Tennessee and I decided to hang back and do my own thing. On Friday night I went for a bike ride around town and watched the sunset over the cotton fields of Mississippi. Then I stopped by a few of my neighbors house to introduce myself then headed back home to eat some cereal for dinner.

Saturday morning I woke up, went for a run, got ready, jumped in my car and drove about an hour to my friend's house. It was refreshing to see some of my good friends from Institute. It is weird how close I got to some of the girls during my time at Delta State University. We were only there for six weeks, but we experienced a lot of challenges and growth together.

We made stuffed french toast, bacon, and coffee then chatted the afternoon away. Around four o'clock we headed to our friends house about thirty minutes away. She lives in the woods right next to the river. A group of us ate dinner together, played telephone pictionary and then hopped in the back of a pick-up-truck to go star gazing on the levy. We danced under the stars and didn't talk about school, work, or teaching. It was glorious.

:::Cleaning And A Familiar Face:::
For six hours on Monday I worked in my classroom. My principal let me into the school so I could get rid of old materials, clean, and organize my space. It was much needed. After about three hours though I was almost ready to quit. It seemed like progress would never be made. I felt like I was drowning in stuff. Then I got a call from a friend. John and I were in a lot of the same classes my senior year at Concordia since we were both Communcaions/JPR majors. He recently started a new job and his territory is in Oxford, Mississippi, which is about an hour away from me. Crazy, eh!?! I told him he should come visit (half joking, but ever-so-hopeful) and the next day he showed up! John helped clean my classroom for three hours and I don't think I would have finished without him. He showed up just in time. It was refreshing to be able to talk about Nebraska and see a familiar face from home. Work is always a lot easier to do when you have company.

:::Those Your's Ms. Wolff:::
I am going to skip forward to Friday. It had been a long, hard, day at school. It has become very clear to me that the majority of my kids think it is okay to hit, kick, push, shove and everything in between to get what they want. It was the last 45 minutes of the day and I was not sure what to do. I asked the counselor to come down and talk with my kids about how to express our emotions and what it means to care for each other and use our words instead of violence. He broke them down emotionally. He spoke firmly and was very honest with them. He was stern yet you could tell he cared. By the end of the day almost every single one of my kids was crying. They had to come apologize to me personally and they had to apologize to each one of their classmates they had hurt. As each student said "I am sorry" the other student was expected to say "I forgive you". "Sorry" alone and "It's okay" were not accepted. Each child had to say "I AM sorry" and then "I forgive you" because it is important for them to know that it is not okay and they are expected to change their behavior. If they apologize that means they are sorry to the point that they will not do it again. It was a rough day, but very needed. As each student left to board their bus most of them shuffled down the hallway wiping some tears and sniffling as they went. One teacher looks at me and says, "Why all these kids crying? Those your's Ms. Wolff?". I just nodded, took a deep breath, and went back into the classroom.

:::Food For Thought:::
This weekend I have been thinking a lot about salvation and what it means to be His and His alone. This is what I have been thinking. It is so easy for me to fear man and not fear God. I long for the approval of my co-workers, principal, roommates, other TFA corps members, family and friends. I have been convicted by just how selfish I really am. So much of my day I think about myself, my to-do-list, and my wants. Often times I feel very alone here in Mississippi. I feel as if no one really knows me and I don't really know them. It is hard because I want to know people and love those around me. This is what I wrote in my journal the other day.

"Lord, please don't let me water down the beauty of the gospel. Yet don't allow my moth to flap without my feet moving. God. I feel convicted about my sin. I do not take captive every thought to make it obedient to you. I want to. Please help me. Help me to walk in a spirit of prayer. A spirit of worship. I am tired of walking by the flesh... All I want is you. All I need is you. All I have is you! Remind me that all I am is who you are in me and all I have been given is a gift from above. I am not my own and "my story" is not even mine to keep or make. Jesus. Please humble me and show me how much you really do love me. Captivate all of me. I long to know Christ. Please show me how to fear you alone and not man. I came here not to be served but to serve."

The pastor last Sunday said, "All things about salvation and sanctification are supernatural!" We are not in control of it at all. The Spirit that dwelled inside of Jesus now dwells inside of those who are His children. How often do I forget about Him even though He lives and dwells inside of me? How often do I talk about God as if He is not in the room? I am not called to be perfect, but to be living in the increase because my sin makes me sick. Why does it make me sick? Because I know a holy God that loves me and wants the best for me. And what is best for me? Jesus Christ. I desire to throw off anything that so easily entangles me so I may run the race steadfastly! I pray that the Lord will convict me and convict you of your sin so that we may repent and believe in the beautiful name of Jesus Christ. May we enter into the most beautiful love story ever told. I don't want to be offended when Jesus returns. I pray that he would show me how to receive all that he has to give for I long to be disciplined by him and in love with Jesus Christ alone. May I seek His face before I seek His hand. He has given me life! Nothing compares to Him. Many times I just need to be still and take a breath or two.