My Favorite Teacher Gifts and Why This Matters…

For ten years, it sat on my desk.

And I’m not a “stuff” person really.  I have kids.  Things break.  It’s a reality, not a nightmare.

Yet, this I mourned a little, when I sat down at my desk and saw what a child-who-shall-remain-nameless broke this week.

Ten years ago, in my pre-Mom days when I was still teaching in the classroom, parents and students gave this simple picture frame to me.  Each teacher in the school received one with a card inside displaying their name along with the fruit of the spirit or character trait the students said that teacher most represented.

Sometimes you need an outsider’s perspective.  Sometimes you think you know who you are, but it takes someone else to say, “I see this in you…” and you haven’t ever seen that before so you know exactly what that means.

It’s proof that God’s been working in you.  He’s been transforming you and changing  you all up from the inside.  Maybe you’ve missed the yellow “Caution: God At Work” sign and maybe you didn’t even see the grand unveiling of the new and Holy Spirit-improved you.

But someone else saw.  They noticed.  And they took time to say….Jesus is glorified in you.

So, I opened up that teacher’s gift ten years ago and just marveled at God because what the kids saw in me was “Joy.”

I never would have guessed that.  Didn’t see it.  Didn’t know it.  Can’t even tell you now how exactly the Holy Spirit chiseled, scraped, sanded, and carved that out of a misshapen rock like me.

But I knew one thing for sure.  That was God’s hand, His glory, an artistic endeavor that only a Master Creator would undertake and accomplish.042

That little picture frame gift never was just about remembering students or recalling the old days when I commuted and dressed like a professional instead of donning jeans, a t-shirt and canvas sneakers to head out for a full day of Mom-life.

No, it was about so much grace.

And more.

This world condones, encourages, evokes, and just pulls right out the selfishness in us.  It tells us: Focus within.  Look out for #1.  Fight to get ahead.  Don’t let anyone stand in your way.  Help yourself.  Take what’s yours.

God, though, didn’t just tell us to stoop down low, to reach out, to humby pull out the cloth and the basin and wash another’s feet.

He did it Himself.

And then He asked us to do it for others.

Hebrews 10:24 says:

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (NLT).

One little teacher gift for me was Hebrews 10:24 wrapped up with tissue paper and handed out during teacher appreciation week in 2003.

Now, I’m the mom with the young kids and they have the incredible teachers.  This, again, is grace.  The way God blesses us and pours into us.  Then He asks us to pour ourselves right on out for others so they can be blessed and filled to overflowing.

And so it goes, a perpetual fountain of grace-giving that only stops when we break the chain and stagnate the flow until we’re all swamp-stinky and covered in a grime of selfishness.001

Maybe your days of classroom teachers are long over.  But we all have those special ones who give so much and if we’ll just take one moment to look at them instead of at ourselves, we’ll marvel at the creativity, the thoughtfulness, the gentleness, the devotion, the commitment, the faithfulness, the care and the compassion.

And we’ll want to say, “Thanks.”  We’ll want to tell them—“I see this beauty in you.”

For those looking for ways to bless a teacher or other special servant, here are some ideas as we end this school year or even thoughts to give you a head-start for the fall.  We’ve collected these ideas from Pinterest, the Internet, and from other moms.  I’m hardly creative enough to come up with these on my own!

To see my whole Pinterest board of Cute Gift Ideas, click here!

Of course, gift cards are great, too.

Most importantly, though, is a genuine, heartfelt note of appreciation and encouragement.  That’s something we can all give to another this week.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Single Mom for a Week

I was a single mom for a week, kind of.  With a husband away on a business trip, I was the parent on-call for all children’s needs, desires, wishes, wants, tantrums, crises, and cuddles.

I was the homework master, the bath overseer and hair washer, the bedtime manager, the school issue overseer, the household servant, head chef and personal shopper, the sole chauffeur, and more.

And really, we did just fine.  All those tasks and mom jobs weren’t so different from my normal mom resume and daily agenda.

Besides, I knew I still had an emergency fallback position: I could threaten children with a phone call to dad for ridiculous misbehavior.  I also had the gift that technology gives, conversations with my husband in between his conference sessions and the ability to spill out, if only for a few minutes, the news and adventures from the home front.

And I had people every day asking how I was doing, making sure I had the help I needed, and reminders that they were just a phone call away.

It was mostly my husband’s presence that I missed.  Just being with him calms me.  I’m a grumpier mom when he’s away and more apt to cry tears over the eventual build-up of tiny annoyances that swarm the day like gnats.

Things like:

Children forgetting homework.
A child having a tantrum in the school library.
Sibling fights.
A dentist appointment I didn’t remember I had scheduled during an insanely inconvenient week.
A preschooler who took an unexpected nap and is therefore unable to fall asleep anywhere close to the vicinity of bedtime.
A package on my doorstep that I didn’t order.
People sending me forms for an event without filling them out correctly.
Extra phone calls to be made.
Unexpected conflict.112339-20130114

And so it was, when the week was over and my husband walked through that door, I felt the burdens ease somewhat.  I was calmer, more cheerful, more relaxed, better able to sleep.

During the earlier days of our marriage, my husband had to be away from me for 3-4 months at a time, living in another state for job training or job transfers or while I was on-site for grad school.  I’ve been there, done that several times.

What it taught me then was that time with this man is precious. 

Taking it for granted or spending it like the quarrelsome, nagging, contentious, vexing wife in Proverbs (Proverbs 21:9, Proverbs 25:24) makes me no better than water torture to live with: “An endless dripping on a rainy day and a nagging wife are alike” (Proverbs 27:15).

These annual one-week stints apart from each other just remind me anew to value my marriage and this man, who is a God-gift to me.  It resets my priorities and readjusts my expectations.  It gives me reason to pray for him with focus and attention and re-establishes the habit of covering my husband’s daily walk, work and ministry in prayer.

This year, though, I was reminded of something else—-that we minister to others out of our own experiences (2 Corinthians 1:4).  Just as others have served me during my short-term single mom moments, so I should take the time to serve another.

And these women who need us are everywhere: Divorced moms, widows, military wives with husbands on deployment and other wives with husbands away.  They may not have the safety net of a call from dad to threaten unruly children.  Their single mom reality might not end with a plane trip home after a week away.

All last week, as I hung up the phone from my final conversation with my husband for the night, I didn’t just think about me.

I thought about these women going it alone and how to love them:

  1. Write them a note and tell them, “you are doing a great job and you are an amazing mom.”  They may never hear those simple words of praise and encouragement.
  2. Pray for them daily.
  3. Send them a gift card for pizza, Chic-Fil-A or some other restaurant so they can take a night off from cooking.
  4. Take them out for coffee, tea, or dinner.  So often what they miss is just adult companionship.
  5. Don’t ask them to let you know if they need anything.  They probably won’t.  Be proactive (without being pushy or invasive) by offering specific help or (if appropriate) surprising them with a helping hand.
  6. Call them on the phone just to chat.
  7. Let them know when you will watch their kids or hire a babysitter for them so they can go out with friends.
  8. Personally invite them to ladies’ nights out at church and don’t let them feel excluded from women’s ministry (which so often focuses only on married women with kids).
  9. Pamper them a little, maybe with a gift card for a manicure or to a hair salon, flowers, or an anonymous present of lotion and bath salts.
  10. Care about their kids.

This one week of missing my husband makes me a better wife and can make me a better friend.

How would you minister to single moms, divorced women, widows, military wives and other women whose spouses are away?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King