On The Eve of Something New

There is often an indescribable feeling of hope and joy when one is on the eve of something new. Change is the most uncomfortable process to adjust to; yet very inevitable. The charismatic Christian movement has mastered the art of selling the eve of something new: a brand new discovery of Christ. This ceremonious event, though practiced and expected every Sunday, where unbelievers are called to the front of the church to receive Christ as their Lord and saviour; is the brink of change at a deeply personal level. It is the eve of the discovery of Christ; the discovery of something New…

The researcher in me struggled to understand for a long while why the research element of our MBA program kept so many of my peers from completing their degrees and graduating? After a couple of conversations with these very bright and intelligent peers of mine, I remembered the innate power of teaching and coaching that lay deep inside of me–forgotten.

More than a decade ago I assisted high school learners to discover the love for learning science and to find the desire to rise beyond their own expectations in academics. My two year stint of teaching was a great success and the most rewarding job ever. Teaching came so effortlessly to me that I dismissed it as non-challenging career choice. And yet again in 2019, a full MBA graduate, I find myself loving to motivate, elevate and awaken the little boys and girls inside these adult MBA students of mine to rise beyond their own expectations and graduate.

I’m on the eve of something new here; something great! I am pleasantly surprised by their belief and trust in me to pull them through. So much so, that I need to be very close to the one that pulls me through. I read the other day on the new church vine yard website that “While the Lord is the source of all that is good, our response can also be blessing.” I know and understand very well that everything good that comes through me; is directly from the Lord blessing His children. And for that, I am grateful! Being in the midst of people discovering the God inside of them has fulfilled my life to the brink.

I’ve been recruited for over a year now into the ‘strategic advisor’ to the MMC for Finance position in the city of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality. I love my boss, he is as challenging as South African politics could have ever defined; yet very kind, ambitious and completely loyal to his calling. He’s quickly ascended in the ranks of political power and it’s been an amazing journey seeing him rise beyond his own expectations.

As I lay these words on this page right now, he is on the eve of becoming the next Mayor of the City of Johannesburg. Twenty four hours into the announcement I find myself reaching out to my own God, within me, to pull him out of the nerves that are consuming him as the minutes slowly go by. I don’t know if he will be voted in as the new mayor of Johannesburg tomorrow -he is, one of the three candidates in the running. At this time, he’s done everything he knows how to do, we have worked very hard to even receive his own party’s nomination.

The race is about to end, he is on the eve of something new. Change is coming. No matter what that will be; I must remind him of the hope that is God; I believe that it was decided a long time ago who the next mayor of Johannesburg will be; the reveal will be discovered tomorrow. Faith must accompany his Charity now. He’s done well. Those of us who live by God’s will are not afraid. We are hopeful that the best candidate will take the seat tomorrow. In my own article, I have already declared him the mayor. Let His Will Be Done; not my own!

Asking For Help

I would imagine many people have a reaction to this article just from reading the title. Asking for help. Anyone out there like doing that? For myself the phrase immediately brings up a combination of guilt surge, doubt in my ability to even do it, and irritation that it’s needed. And maybe most of all: the rueful and frustrated acknowledgement that asking for help works where often nothing else does. 

This evening I remembered with a sudden panic that I had to write this article before tomorrow morning. I looked around the toy-strewn room, the dirt dusted floor, at the kids beginning to whine for dinner, I leapt ahead to the gathering I was hosting tomorrow night and how I could not possibly get things as ready as I had hoped. I felt myself sliding into *justified* anger at my husband for not sharing my increasingly frantic feelings. And then I did something that is (for me) remarkable: 

I said to my husband: “Hey, once the kids are in bed can you vacuum while I write this article?” 

And his response: a smile and an easy, “ok.” 

Easy as that (in retrospect). 

The other day I was talking to my mom about life and what was feeling hard, and in a moment of brutal honesty I said that the feeling toward my husband was: “why aren’t you taking care of me in all the ways I haven’t asked?” And then we both burst out laughing, because it’s so silly, because it’s so true. 

It’s one thing to know I need help, to want it very desperately. But to actually ask for it? How weak. How vulnerable. And this goes for everything from help with household chores, to asking for a chance to talk, or a hug, a safe space to cry. In asking for help, I have to admit that I actually can’t do it on my own, and I have to give someone power over me. Power to reject, dismiss, overlook, misunderstand: power to hurt. I am quite happy to take help as my just due when it is offered. (And I then feel quite at liberty to critique it when it isn’t exactly what I hoped for). But when I actually ask for it–I then have to wait and be willing to receive what is given back. And that is scary. 

Recently my husband and I watched “The Call to Courage” by Brenè Brown on Netflix (a great couples activity by the way–it sparked a powerful conversation for us). One of her main points is that courage and vulnerability are not opposites, but inextricably tied together. Vulnerability is not a moment of weakness, a failing, but a choice to enter knowingly into a place of “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” And this requires great courage. 

To me there are few things more vulnerable than admitting I haven’t got it all in hand, and that I need help from someone else. Knowing that it is really vulnerability that I fear doesn’t make asking for help any easier, but it reminds me that it’s hard for everyone. And it reminds me that, tempting as it is to believe, martyrdom is not the same as courage. Letting my guard down and letting someone in takes so much more courage than crashing on in silence. 

It’s pretty clear that when I do bring myself to ask for help, the results speak for themselves, as was so simply and perfectly demonstrated to me tonight. And yet despite the evidence, despite the success stories, I still fear it. The potential for rejection when we make ourselves vulnerable is potent. 

The hells want me to believe I can’t win: I don’t get what I need without asking, but asking is too great a risk of hurt and humiliation. While I was thinking about these ideas a line from Exodus kept popping into my head: “Little by little I will drive them out.” Ah yes, big changes take time. And AH, YES–the Lord is the one doing the work. Learning how to ask for help from others is ultimately all practice in learning how to ask for help from Him. 

“Hey, can you give me a new heart while I try to keep my temper with my children?”

And His response: a smile, and an easy, “ok.” 

“Little by little I will drive them out from before you until you have increased, and you inherit the land.”
Exodus 23:30

My Philosophy of Classroom Environment

When designing my classroom environment, I want to create a space that supports students in becoming useful members of society. I want to encourage students to learn and grow in all aspects of their life: cognitive development, social development, physical development and most importantly spiritual development. I believe that all students have the ability to become valuable members of society, but they can’t do this on their own they need an environment that gives them the support and tools to help them become the best people they can be.

I think the best way to accomplish this is by offering students a variety of opportunities and settings to discover and develop their interests in a constructive way. Our role as the teacher is to guide them on this path while they discover who they are and who they want to become. 

Creating my classroom environment was about pulling every detail and aspect of the design to support my vision of education. I believe that school should be an extension of the home and so I created a space with soft colors, cozy corners and natural lighting. I wanted to create a shared space while also giving individuals personal spaces they can take responsibility for. I believe that choice is an important aspect of education; I included a wide variety of spaces for students to choose from during work periods.

Theories of Vygotsky greatly influenced the layout of my classroom, instead of individual desks, students work at tables with groups of four. The teacher’s desk is a horseshoe shape that students can pull chairs up to for questions or small group work. I think it is important for the students to be able to easily approach peers or their teacher to get the support they need in understanding material. 

As I believe that school should be an extension of the home, I also believe that religion is an integral part of education. In my classroom, I created a worship center in the corner of the room with large windows behind it and a round rug for students to sit on. Every school day begins with worship or chapel because I believe that the “education of little children is in heaven, leading them by means of an understanding of truth and the wisdom of good into the angelic life, which is love to the Lord and mutual love, in which is innocence.” (Heaven and Hell, 344) It is extremely important as educators to protect, nourish and grow a love for the Lord in little children, which is why I start everyday with worship. 

I don’t believe in knowledge for knowledges sake; all we teach students should be done with purpose. That is why I love the Waldorf school models, because it focuses on helping develop students into contributing members of society. Moreover, Waldorf school emphasizes the importance of giving students a variety of learning opportunities through creative thinking, emotional intelligence, physical vitality and a responsibility to nature, work and society.  We are the stewards of the earth and I think this can be taught to students when we give them the space and exposure to appreciate the beauty of the world we have been given. My classroom isn’t limited to the four walls inside, it includes a large outdoor space with lots of mature trees and wooden structures to play on. 

As an educator my main purpose is to help prepare students for life, not just on this earth but for heaven. “Charity without faith is not real, nor is faith without charity real, and neither charity nor faith is real without works. But in works they become real, and a reality such as the usefulness of the works.” (Apocalypse Revealed 875) This means that as educators it is not enough to just teach students knowledge, we also must teach them how to apply that knowledge in their life and serve a use. If we teach students in a way that they choose to apply the knowledge in their life, the knowledge we share with them will stick with them. 

Notice Your Shoulders

Lately, I’ve been noticing my shoulders.

It all started last Christmas. I bought my mom a backpack that she really wanted. She passed away before she got a chance to use it and now it sits in my closet. I haven’t decided what I want to carry in it yet, but I like the idea that when I wear it, I will carry a part of my mom with me. 

A week after my mom died, I was in my brother-in-law’s wedding. Standing at the front of the church, I felt my mom’s presence hovering over my right shoulder. She was always a champion of marriage and I could feel her beaming with joy at getting a front row seat witnessing the birth of this precious new union.   

I’ve since felt my mother’s presence several times and it’s always been around my shoulders and centered around spheres of innocence; as I smiled down at my newborn son; while I was sitting on the grass in the sunshine as my older children ran around the local playground. Moments like that are when I feel her close, like warm wings draping over my shoulders from behind and humming with heavenly energy and comfort.

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