Do you remember the teacher on Charlie Brown? We could never tell what she was saying.. it was just "Wha Wa Wa Wha". All my teacher peeps can relate! There are days I feel like a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. I think back to the classes I sat in and case studies reviewed and still cannot find a way to get through to some students. In those moments I try to hang on to this verse. I could know all the right words to say, use all the right classroom management techniques, but if i don't love others, I am just that.. a clanging cymbal. Please keep me in prayer as I continue to work with students in the South Bronx.
Valentine's Day Ninjas
Thank you for praying for Graffiti 2 Kids! We celebrated friendships and Jesus' love for us all! We often walk down the hall quietly, "like ninjas!" Feb. 14th, we were Valentine's Ninjas! We had a sweet time together! Please pray for our students as they learn about respect and healthy friendships!
What are you afraid of?
What are you afraid of? This is not a fixed list. It changes. It grows. When I was little, I was super afraid of going in the Lazy River at Wet'n'wild (pre-Hurricane Harbor). I knew that EVERYtime I went in, I would end up getting lost. I was afraid of speaking up. I was scared to say something that would make me stick out or keep me from fitting in. I've learned a few things. I know to make a plan when we go to any kind of amusement park... we always have a meeting place! That has helped me to get past that fear. I've learned that it is okay to speak up and share my thoughts, even if they are not like everyone else's... especially if they are not like everyone else's. I've picked up a few new fears since moving to New York. I was happy to learn that I was not alone and that every New Yorker has had this fear at one point or another.. but I am so scared of falling onto the tracks in the subway! I will stand and wait for my train and think of what I would do if I lost my balance and fell or was pushed by the masses! I'm afraid of losing my monthly metrocard. Those suckers are not cheap! I'm proud to say that I have not lost one yet!
Today, like every Monday, we gathered at Graffiti 2 for our staff meeting. Josh was leading our devotional and he started by asking us to be transparent and share our biggest fear. We joked about some silly fears, but there was a moment when I had to decide if I was truly going to be vulnerable and share my biggest fear, that one that you don't tell anyone about because once its out, its out and there is not taking it back or if I was going to play it safe and share a lesser fear. One that is acceptable and easy to talk about.
I knew I wasn't going to get through this without tears. I began to share what I saw as my biggest fear and tried to get through it quickly to avoid the ugly cry. You know the one. The more I spoke, the easier it was to explain what my though process was and where I thought the fear stemmed from. Each of us shared and then we went to Scripture to be reminded of what God tells us about our fears. I read Isaiah 41:10:
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
As we read verse after verse containing God's great promises to us, a beautiful peace settled in my spirit. I am so grateful for my Graffiti 2 family that encourages transparency and even more grateful that they point me back to truth. Thank you, Jesus!
The ride to and from work is always an adventure. Sometimes quiet enough for me to enjoy my soundtrack for the day (lately it's been music from the movie, The Greatest Showman!) but often the train provides a show of it's very own. The genres vary from musicals as aspiring artists sing and play their original music or perform amazingly choreographed routines (some actually good and some that think they're good!) to made for T.V. drama that you can't help but get drawn into!
Last week, I hopped on the last car at Cypress Ave with just one other person in it. I was fully expecting it to be a quiet ride. As the train began to move, a group of 5 middle schoolers came busting through the connecting doors and charged towards the back door. They ran, one right behind the other, and kicked the back door trying (unsuccessfully) to get it to open. Over and over, they backed up and kicked as hard as they could. I was horrified as my brain jumped ahead to what would happen if the door actually did open as we were flying down the tracks. As my dearest friends know, I am not very good at hiding my emotions and one of the boys soon saw the look on my face and got in my face asking, "what?" I calmly replied, "that's not a good idea." He turned to his friends and said, "I'm not going to do it anymore because this lady says its not a good idea." Then he sat down next to me and asked what I was doing. I had my phone out and was about to put on my music. He asked if he could play on my phone, meanwhile his friends are still kicking at the door. I told him he could not play on my phone and was wrestling with the fear that he was going to grab it and run. I wanted to stick it in my backpack and out of his reach.
Instead, I put it down and turned to look at him. I told him that I was worried his friends were going to get hurt. He yelled and told them to stop. They all came and sat around me then started shooting spitballs at each other. I was in the line of fire! One grazed my hair and turned to the shooter, told him to stop and he asked "why?" I looked around to the spitball littered floor and said that it was gross and dirty. The kid next to me stood and asked, "are you calling me dirty?" Responding calmly again, I said, "no, what you're doing is gross and dirty." I asked them to look at the floor and all the mess they were leaving behind for other passengers. One of them yelled out, "so" and jumped up running through the connecting door but not going into the next car. The rest of the group followed and crammed in the tiny space between the cars.
We were pulling up to my station and they were shooting spitballs at the people on the platform. As we slowed, I looked at them through the window and the kid who sat next to me was looking right at me... and flipping me off. I smiled, the most genuine smile I could, and waved. His friends opened the door to the car next door and ran on. He looked at them then back at me and opened the door to my car. He stormed over to me, I was the only one in the car, and asked why I did that. I played dumb and asked what he was talking about. He asked why I smiled and waved. With a bit of sarcasm, I asked, "were you not waving good-bye?" He laughed and gave me a hug!
While he hugged me, he told me he would try to be more careful and to have a good night. WHAT? I totally didn't expect my train ride to end that way. I have been working through a lot of my own issues and battling with being humble. It was hard to keep my cool and not jump into teacher mode. I am so thankful for my time as a teacher and the many tools my time in the classroom has given me, but I've had to switch my brain to ministry mode and practice being okay with it. This train ride could have gone so many other ways, many of them would have been extremely discouraging. Instead, God used this unexpected encounter to reaffirm that I am exactly where I am suppose to be.
I'm JoAnn. I am a God worshipping, Jesus following, child teaching, puppy petting, daughter of the King of Kings, who is grateful for daily grace and forgiveness!