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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Counting It All Joy


He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” Mark 9:37

This past week witnessed an outpouring of appreciation. Social media sites have been rightly flooded with teacher posts and Mother’s Day sentiments. According to nationaldaycalendar.com, discussions occurred as early as 1944 on the need to “thank” teachers. The conversation was tabled until 1953 when Eleanor Roosevelt pleaded with the 81st Congress to create a National Teacher’s Day. It wasn’t until March 7th, 1980 that it became official. In 1985, the National Education Association (NEA) deemed that the first Tuesday of May would be the start of Teacher Appreciation Week. Mother’s Day had a much longer history that started with a woman named Anna Jarvis in 1908, and was solidified as a national holiday on May 9, 1941 by Woodrow Wilson. It took 41 years to successfully legislate a week of educator appreciation, and much less time to highlight mothers. Before the formalities, there was and has always been, incomparable, heart-moving affirmations resonating throughout homes, co-ops, and classrooms far and wide. 

For mothers, it is the unparalleled joy of hearing the first word, watching wobbly steps, and listening to a heaven-touched bellowing of “Jesus Loves Me”. From learner’s permits, first loves, and next season transitions, a mother’s pilgrimage of faith and thanksgiving remains ceaseless until her final breath. For educators, appreciation is purely gleaned when students demonstrate mastered skills of logic, communication, servant leadership, and a deeper comprehension of scripture. The blessed mentoring journey may end with a cap and gown, but the returns from such an investment live on through Kingdom work. It is the mother and educator whose worldview counts it all joy to be stewarding a child’s future that walks reverently on holy ground.

Before I was blessed with children of my own, my elementary students would ask “How many children do you have?” "Twenty-four," I would exclaim. "I can’t wait for you to meet them! They are so very kind, beautiful, handsome, and incredibly smart!”  Believing every heartfelt word, a group hug commenced with reckless abandon. Later, when I homeschooled my own 3 babies and then taught English to older students, I would excitedly explain "God has placed you here and now for divine purposes. What an honor it is to be a small part of your History! Together, let’s steward this time well, and see what our Lord has for each of us!” What followed was a precious time of mutual respect, genuine exchanges of ideas, a reverent uncovering of God’s created mysteries, and treasured memories of laughter, caring, and maturation.  

Having the opportunity to work in an administrative role at a local Christian school, I was humbly blessed to serve several hundred kiddos and their families. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20 and like every mom and educator’s propensity, I have reflected on and mourned every opportunity lost to have done it better. Over time however, I have humbly resolved that every decision made whether right or wrong originated from a deep compassion and concern for our students. Every child the Lord brought through our doors was His own, and we had been entrusted with a brief, but monumental task. We were to shepherd their hearts and minds to know Him more intimately and prepare them for their Kingdom calling. Unfortunately, tIme moves swiftly. Like watching your child drive away to the next season of their life, Graduation should cultivate similar emotions for every educator.  

During my tenure, I was given the honor and privilege to call the graduates’ names to receive their diplomas. To the overall crowd, it may have appeared as a simple recognition for the next graduate to come forward. For the moms and dads, hearing their child’s name elicited a rush of memories baptized in happy tears, but for those educators who had also lovingly poured prayer and Kingdom purpose into that child, it was an emotional, purpose-clarifying moment in time. With the utterance of each given name, a fearfully and wonderfully fashioned child turned young adult rises and moves anxiously forward. With each step, a slight bit of youthfulness is left behind. With a handshake, grasp of diploma, and tassel shift, the once blurred realities of adulthood suddenly gain overwhelming clarity. Immediately, there is a silent, breath-taking moment of questioning. Parents and educators alike ponder, “Did we give this child our very best?”   

It is no happenstance that Teacher Appreciation and Mother’s Day fall so closely together, as motherhood and education are Biblically intertwined. Although scripture clearly tasks parents with the job of instruction, our culture offers educational choices that share that responsibility. The Biblical mandates on teaching apply to all who commit to that role. With the transformative power and influence each wields, both mothers and educators should reverently kneel each day in gratitude, petitioning the Lord for discernment, wisdom, and strength. To be entrusted by our Heavenly Father to shepherd and disciple one of his own as a parent, educator, or both is an amazing calling. Sometimes it can wearily feel like a thankless job until a May calendar marker; however, the profound reality is that you have an audience of One who sees “how you are receiving and investing in His children, and thus for Him”.  

You, you are changing the world 

One little heartbeat at a time

Making history with every touch and smile

Oh, you, may not see it now

But I believe that time will tell

How you, you are changing the world

One little heartbeat at a time

-Steven Curtis Chapman

author: tonya c. gordon