Dear Student Who Feels Defeated

To The Student That Feels Defeated,

You are sitting there at a table or a desk- you might be reading, writing or maybe working at something else, depending on the given day. You look up and catch the teacher glancing your way; so you try to show her with your eyes that ‘this just isn’t making any sense’. Try to send her that message. Because it’s just a mystery to you that people understand this stuff. A complete puzzle.

You watch your friends who find it so easy- math, writing, reading, problem-solving, figuring things out. They seem to do everything so effortlessly. But to you, each task just feels like one, long endless riddle- with no apparent solution.
Feels like one long, drawn-out visit to the orthodontist.

Or maybe it’s during gym class that you find things challenging. Maybe it’s music or science or French that throws you off your game. Maybe it’s after-school when you are at basket-ball or soccer or another extra-curricular club that you find yourself not measuring up to the rest of your teammates. Maybe that’s when you start to find your confidence slipping. Maybe that’s when you feel like you can’t compete.

Maybe it’s more to do with fitting in and finding friendship, or it’s that feeling of acceptance in being part of the crowd. That’s what you are missing. Maybe you just feel like you are the odd-one-out left to stand awkwardly watching from the sidelines. The person who never gets a call after school, a text or an invitation to the group chat.

And so you get home at the end of each school day and you sit at the table with a bowl of cereal and a glass of chocolate milk. And you try to make sense of the fact that you feel stupid/unliked/unpopular/incapable- while the rest of the world does not. While the rest of the world just keeps moving on. Understanding everything that you do not, doing everything you can not, and including those people around you of whom you are not- while you’re left standing on the outside.

It feels like everyone else is accomplishing stuff while you watch on helplessly, feeling useless. And while life just continues carrying on, you feel more and more defeated. More and more deflated. Cause it feels like you are the only one falling back, falling behind. Even while everyone else in the world is occupied with ‘getting ahead’- making sense of the world and everything in it. Yet meanwhile, for you- it all just feels so difficult. Life feels so hard.

And you feel so stupid.

Dear Student who feels this way, can I please tell you that you most definitely are not?

Not stupid.
Not dumb.
Not unintelligent.
Not brainless.
Not unloveable.
Not incapable.
Not a failure.

You are not.

True, you are struggling with this hard thing in your life- this mountain that seems to consume you. But one day soon, it will no longer be there. You will have climbed and conquered. And you will then be free to see life another way, from a different vantage point. One day soon you will look behind you and see that this mountain was just a small anthill. Something so small from your position, that it will almost seem insignificant in hindsight. And you will turn your eyes back around after seeing that you made it over, and see that before you is what you were waiting for all along. See that you arrived. That’s the beauty of moving forward.

Because right now, you are in the middle of living out the battle. Life is hard because it is suppose to be sometimes- it’s suppose to be hard at this time and place in your life. And quite honestly, life is hard because there are hard things to go through, hard things to understand, hard things to figure out. But these hard things are making you, shaping you, creating in you: perseverance, resistance, resolve, determination, strength and will power. For in living out the hard stuff, we come to see ourselves in different ways- realizing that the moments when life is at its very hardest are often the moments and the times when we grow and ‘become’ the best. Your time of becoming your best self is right now.

Don’t give up on that vision.

Yes, your hard time might be now. But tomorrow is already on the way, almost here. And just like every time before, you can do this. Just look how far you’ve already come. You can accomplish what you set your heart on. So go ahead- prove it to yourself.

Never forget, I’ve got your back. The rest is in your capable hands.
Never stop believing.
You are capable, you are able.
You are.

Love,
Your Teacher

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Little is Much

The moon shines to an almost full sphere of milky white luminosity, its opaque form growing clearer each minute we walk this warm autumn evening. I comment that I am sure this should have been a full-moon tonight. It’s been that kind of atypical day. Duty on the playground complete with emotional breakdowns, fights and bullying. In-class issues that I feel ill-equipped to handle. After school meetings. After supper meetings.  Interpersonal conflicts that I have no idea how I got involved in them and an even lesser idea of how to handle them. And I’m just spent. Just spent.

And then this: the last straw, a phone call that does me in completely.

So this is what it feels like. Discouragement. What it is to be- to feel completely disheartened. To feel the weight of it all pressing down on your shoulders. To feel despair wrapping like powerful tentacles as if proffered by some vast sea creature- tightly enclosed around your soul, squeezing the life out of you. Threatening to strip you of all you know for sure. Threatening to steal even your belief in the good. Threatening to take you for all you’re worth.

This is what it feels like to be at the bottom.

She and I talk. I can hear it in her voice- the fear of the unknown. The worry, the anxiety. The stress. We talk about what’s next- the mysterious, unspecified tomorrows. And all the days after that. Of all that is to come. We talk of the sheer ridiculousness of it all, but we keep coming back to the fear. The feelings of concern and anxiety. The apprehension. The what-ifs.

We talk. And I grow more and more frustrated with the situation- and then more and more frustrated with all the other crazy situations I come to find myself involved in. Those predicaments and dilemmas that more or less define my life. Making it appear that the only peaceful moments are those I live in-between the insanity. And I think of how small we humans truly are- how little we must seem in the sea of humanity. We’re just a drop in the bucket, are we not? A tiny, miniscule little droplet. What do we matter in the grand scheme of things? Who really cares?

It’s hard to see our purpose when we’re busy caught up in fear of what lies just around the corner. It’s hard to trust when we’re too busy caught up in worry. Hard to look up when we’ve got our eyes focused on the ground.

I run up the stairs to kiss my sleeping babies who are growing fast and becoming their own unique and beautiful person so very quickly- I gently kiss their foreheads. And I think of the little speck of faith that keeps me trusting- keeps my eyes focused on my very next step.  keeps my feet firmly planted. And I think of all that which might seem so very little in my eyes- how it can be made into something far greater. Can be multiplied. Just like the five loaves and the two fish. Just like the jar of oil. Just like those vats of wine. And I remember:

Small is mighty.  Less is more.  And little is much.

For God is in that little.  And what might seem like a small offering can be multiplied beyond my wildest imaginings.

Even a shred of faith that is as small as a mustard seed.

The Power of Encouragement

Cool winds blow as the sun goes down on yet another work week. I grab my laptop computer from the back seat of the van- a bag full of papers, my purse and jacket, then head for the house. Stone walkway under my feet showing signs of wear. Four cats waiting on the steps.
And I sigh. I have really been discouraged lately. So many things coming at me from all directions and they all seem to culminate during the month of November. Parent-teacher interviews, report cards, committee meetings, community and church commitments, university papers due, sickness in the family. And then there’s just the regular,old day-to-day grind- running thither and yon with kids in tow while I drag bag upon bag of STUFF everywhere I go. Grocery bags, back-packs, Zuca figure skating bags. My big, black purse. It feels sometimes like I’m living out of these bags. Add to all the above- the weather is changing and I think I just might have a touch of seasonal affective disorder.

And I’ve already mentioned my thoughts on Christmas being right around the corner.

Yesterday, I spent the better half of the morning at the dentist fixing yet another broken, worn-out tooth. Gotta love root canals. And this morning, Husband woke up with what he perceived as being a piece of gravel in his eye which turned out to actually be a wood chip. He spent the morning at the hospital and now is sporting an eye patch which gives him a slight edge over Jonny Depp as my most favorite-est pirate ever.
I arrive home to find him on the couch with Youngest sprawled over the top of him like an afghan. “I’m hunnnnngry,” she whines. And so it begins. Welcome to my Friday.

I sit down at the computer to take a peek at messages and e-mails when I find it. A letter from a woman I know vaguely. Opening the letter, I am completely taken back by the words I read. And what I read was this: the most beautiful, sweetest note I have ever received about one of my children from outside the family.

The tears started to fall as soon as I realized what the letter was about. It was a note of encouragement- completely unexpected. Apparently, I have a child who has befriended a child in class who is experiencing some difficulties; and this child of mine has used every opportunity to make a special connection with this other child- so much so, that my child’s name has been coming up at home as someone very special to this other child. Particularly in light of some of the extenuating circumstances going on with the child in mention. The letter was detailed and the closing line said this:
“I just wanted you to know that you have an amazing {child’s gender} and ask if you could please thank {your child} for me. I’m sure you’re very proud of {them}.”

I couldn’t hold back the tears. Honestly. It just blew me right out of the water.

And it reminded me yet again of the strength one can find in encouragement. Encouragement: it’s such a simple concept yet so profound. We can make the choice to say words that tear down or say words that build up. And even more significant- when we think a good thought about someone, we can choose to keep that good thought to ourselves or we can choose to share it.

How many times have I thought something about someone that made that person stand out as special and unique in my mind, but then got distracted and forgot to tell them what I was thinking? Too many times to count. And I miss out on sharing how that person has touched my life- and they miss out on feeling encouraged.

After I received that note today, I got to thinking: it wouldn’t take much to write a quick note to ten different people about either something they’ve done that I noticed as unique and important- or something someone connected to them has done that just made my day better in one way or the other. It wouldn’t take much effort. But in so doing, ten people would potentially have that same overwhelming feeling of encouragement that I had when I arrived home today. Which would be so worth it. Such a little thing to do- write a note of encouragement- but so very, very profound.

So. I want to challenge the people that read this tonight: think of ten people who have touched your life in a special way. Or not. Think of ten people that you know might just need the encouragement. Maybe they are not the kinds of people that hear nice things said about them very often: those people need encouragement the most. Or think of ten children of ten friends of your’s that you know you could say something nice about. Ten co-workers. Ten neighbors. Ten random people that you vaguely know but whom you know enough about to encourage. And just do it. Encourage them. Write something really special and see what it does for both you and them.

I’ve been discouraged lately. Maybe a lot of us have been. Anybody there? Anybody with me on this one?

Here’s what I know for sure about discouragement: it flips itself on its back when faced with an encouraging word. Discouragement doesn’t stand as much of a chance when over shadowed by encouragement. That little note tonight did more to lifts my spirits than that woman could ever imagine.

What little note could you write tonight that might make all the difference?

When a body needs a mother…

Sometimes. A body just needs to knowTo feel.  A mother’s love.  To know that she is there.  That she’s within arm’s length, when storylines get dark, ominous, sinister.  That she is only a whisper away.   When the plot thickens to a portentous climax.  When the theatrics prove a bit too much to take.  One needs a comforting hand, a steady shoulder to lean on.  A warm body to touch.  A mother to cling to.

When the world just seems too much to take in.  A mother slows life down with her soothing hand, her gentle touch.

The brazen ones say they can do things on their own.  That they are strong.  Tough.  Independent.  That they’re too old for this silliness.  That they are enough in and of their own strength.  But one forgets sometimes.   A body needs a mother.

Even if.  Only sometimes.

It often takes a crisis to remember all the reasons why this is so.   Takes a sudden jolt to bring one’s world to a frightening halt.  The clutches of a vicious rattle in the chest.  And suddenly, hospital corridors summon.  Prescriptions take up the empty cupboard space.  The covers on the bed are adjusted a hundred times, and medicine vials are filled and emptied.  Filled and emptied.  Machines whir vapour mist into the lungs, freeing the soul to inhale.  Exhale.  Breathe.  And the mother becomes the doctor and the nurse.

A mother’s love, a balm that heals.

It takes a wind storm, cutting off connections to the real world.  When the lights flicker, then dim.  Dark replacing light.  Even then.  A body can need a mother.  Sometimes even a boy who is old enough to not need a mother, brave enough to do things on his own.  Even he sometimes needs his mother.  To walk together through dark passage ways where no one wants to walk alone.  To play a slow game of chess to pass the time.  A boy needs a mother.  To chat about the day’s events and share a cuppa hot steaming broth.

A mother’s presence fills the void.

It takes growing pains, sharp knife-like throbs in strong, young legs.  That only a mother can ease with equally strong, knowing hands.  Erasing the pain so slumber finds its way at last.  It takes a mother to hold close the fearful, the wounded, the lonely, the discouraged, the heart-sick, the restless.  A mother knows just when is right to talk, when is right to listen.

And yet.  A mother can only do so much.  Only as much as the day allows.  As much as she is able.  And when she is unable?   Sometimes even capable, competent she, even a mother needs a mother.  One who can bear her load and lessen the toll that comes with mothering.   To lend an ear, a shoulder, a helping hand.  A mother needs a mother.   And when mothers receive, they are then able to give back threefold.  For a mother’s returns are always more than her acquisitions.

A body always needs a mother.  Even when that body is a mother herself.