One beauty of summer break is having time to read an entire book in one sitting. I know it’s only June, but I’m already looking forward to next school year. One of my favorite writing projects of the year is the letter to your future self. At the start of the year I ask the students to write a minimum of five paragraphs in letter form. I give them a topic for each paragraph and review letter form. It’s a simple assignment with the purpose of reflection and to give me an idea of their writing abilities and style. It also serves as a great back up writing assignment for when students inevitably enter the school at the tail end of a larger writing project later in the year. I grade this assignment for completion, checking that they’ve addressed each part of the letter and followed letter format. Then we put the letters in an envelope and hide them away in the cabinet.
Watching the students read their letters, along with a letter I wrote to each of them, at the end of last year was sweet and funny. Some were pleasantly surprised to see they’d accomplished goals such as making honor roll or passing all of their classes. Some chuckled as they read their adorations of some guy or girl who wasn’t so important to their lives at the close of the year.
Even though I’d planned to do this writing assignment again, reading Dear Me sparked an idea to make this project more reflective. Dear Me by Warren Hanson is a 77-page series of letters between a young person and the older version of that person. The young person wonders about her future, while the older person gives general advice about how to live. It was quick read that left me thinking about reflection. After the students receive their letters back at the end of the year, an end of the year assignment should be to reflect upon this letter and respond with a Dear Younger Me letter. This could also be worked into a class wide letter to the upcoming sophomores.
I just love when my casual reading connects to my teaching life. Now I’m off to write my Letter to My Future Self and my Dear Younger Me letter for this point in my life. And of course I need to listen to Matthew West’s song of that title.
I asked my students to complete this prompt, so I thought I would as well.
This year will be different. That’s an intimidating statement to make because who am I to say what this year will hold? Only God knows that. As I look back on the last year, though, I realize I was discontent with many of the relationships in my life. I wanted people to be different, and I sought acceptance from people around me. I was unhappy and insecure when I felt left out, whether I was truly left out or just imagining it. The root of my discontentment was that I was looking in the wrong place for my security. People, myself included, always disappoint, and I will never feel satisfied with a human relationship. Only God can satisfy and define me. This year will be different if I’ll keep that focus and perspective.
Secondly, this year will be different if I am thankful for the deep friendships I’ve already formed rather than attempting to force those in a new place. There’s no need to strive to be accepted by all. Instead I’ll strive to be a better friend to those around simply because that’s what God put me here to do. I’ll focus on demonstrating God’s love and being vulnerable as God leads rather than being concerned about how someone responds to my friendly gestures.
Ultimately this year will only be different if I’ll keep my focus on God and how he defines me rather than how people define me.
What will make your 2018 different?
God’s been weaving again.
On a walk this morning, I started thinking about the tapestry God has been weaving in my life. Often I spend most of my time looking at the individual threads, but when I take a moment to step back I can see the entire beautiful masterpiece. It’s fascinating to ponder how he has guided me to various places and people at just the right point in my life. It’s hopeful to think he’s not finished doing that yet.
Summer is always a great time for self-reflection. Add to it that I’ve spent a lot of time away from people I love and I’ve got a perfect situation for some self-examination. (Mind you, sometimes my self-examination becomes too critical and loses the reflection and growth aspect.) I thought I would share a list of what I have learned so far.
1. I’m learning slowly that I can trust people because no matter what happens God has my heart in his hands.
2. Sometimes it’s best to let the past remain in the past. Just because I’m still hurting in some places does not mean that I need to keep remembering and making others remember.
3. Learn to say no.
4. It’s okay to not be busy.
5. Young children are actually kind of fun. Not that I want to teach them full time but I’ve enjoyed being in the 3-5 year old classroom this month.
6. Fear doesn’t have to control me.
7. I am loved. Sometimes I let the lies in my head convince me that no one cares but those really are just lies. I am loved by many people.
8. I really don’t like folding laundry. When I am in my own room it’s real easy to let my clean clothes sit in the hamper for several days because my pile of dirty clothes is not in anyone’s way.
9. Assume the best in people.
10. God’s timing is perfect. So many ways I have seen this.
Some of these things I knew already and just needed to re-learn. It’s only May. Most high school students have not even finished the school year yet. God is already working in my heart.
Verse for today (not my pick but the one that YouVersion sent to me): No discipline is enjoyable while it’s happening-it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. Hebrews 12: 11
How fitting is that verse. I’ve learned so much because in some ways my heart has been tested and disciplined. I’ve been shown where I’m failing and how I can improve relationships. It’s all been possible because I’ve been truly seeking God and trying to keep my focus there.
So, what’s God been showing you recently?