I read a book this summer called "1000 Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. (here) It was one of the best books I've ever read, and I plan on starting it again soon. It's that good. It's a beautiful, albeit raw and real, story of someone's struggle to see God's grace in the everyday ugly beautiful as she so accurately calls it. It is so easy to get caught up in the to do's and the stress of every day life. And so she started numbering the little gifts of everyday life.
For example : Yesterday I ended up stuck in traffic for awhile trying to get to Target. But it gave Jude some extra time to nap- a gift. Grace. Ugly-beautiful. And a moment to pause and worship the God who is there and ever present in my life in even the smallest of things. She often refers to the word 'eucharisteo' which is a Greek word literally meaning to give thanks, but coming from root words for grace and joy. And so the challenge is to see God's grace in ALL things, the respond with thanks, and thus be filled with joy.
As I embark on a new school year, this is my mantra. The reality with a job like teaching is that I am working with a bunch of little humans raised by humans. There's some ugly moments. Kids make mistakes. They choose not to listen. They learn your buttons and try to push them. They deal with things at home I can only try to imagine, but they come to school with the full weight of those burdens on them. While most of the time their reactions to those burdens are both not directed at me nor in my control, it can be emotionally taxing. Seeing the darkness in a child's life as you make cps referral after referral makes finding joy seem impossible. You can feel surrounded by the ugly.
BUT GOD is in the midst of those ugly circumstances. The moments I want to pull my hair out. Or cry. Or run out of the building to never return. Eucharisteo. Those moments, I know, are full of beauty if I only open my eyes to it. God has a plan for me and all these 18+ children that is full of hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). I'm challenging myself to really count the gifts in the midst of these everyday moments with my kids. To see even the difficult as beautiful, worthy of being thankful for, to find joy in. Joy is contagious, and what better thing to pass to my children than joy in the everyday.
"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
On a side note- if you are ever going about your day and prompted to think of all the teachers and students, pray diligently for them. I know I long to be covered in 1000 prayers every second of the day.