:::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.
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 :)
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.
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.