Nervousness and excitement competed for prominence in my mind as I arrived for my first day of classes. The school, in the small town of Chicxulub in Mexico, had an open-air courtyard with classrooms around the perimeter. It was nothing like the modern schools we have in Canada.
I waited outside for a few minutes and entered together with my fellow teaching volunteers. The crowded room was set up with six tables. Each could seat four students and two teachers.
Before the children arrived, we spent thirty minutes getting acquainted, reviewing the lesson plan and distributing supplies for the day.
The students were led from their regular classroom into our room. They entered to our greeting of, “Good Afternoon” and chose where they wanted to sit. Of the 28 registered in the class, only 17 were present that day; 5 boys and 12 girls. This number varied from week to week and we never had a full class.
The first task was for the students to make nametags. They wrote, I am and their name on a card that was placed in a lanyard around their necks. Along with the students and other teachers I stood in turn, held up my nametag and said, “I am Tandy.” This was our first lesson and the way each class would start.
The children were polite and extremely reserved. It was a challenge to get them to speak loudly enough to be heard. Over the next two months, this shyness persisted for most of them.
Each component of the lesson plan was explained in English and Spanish from the front of the room. Some phrases were written on a white board so they could be referred to.
Then we would work with the students at our table to help them learn necessary words in this foreign language. Over the weeks we taught them through the use of flash cards with words and pictures. They learned: I am, I have, I want and I need. As we added: I am not, I do not have, I do not want and I do not need they were able to form simple sentences with the flash cards. Colours, people, animals and simple objects were incorporated into these sentences. To understand the correct meaning of the words and sentences they formed was quite an accomplishment.
Numbers were also taught. They knew the numerals, but the English words for them proved difficult. We played games to make it enjoyable. In some cases, like when we played Snakes and Ladders, they were having so much fun, it didn’t seem like learning!
Our hour-long classes passed quickly. Each week, the happy students would line up, a table at a time to leave the classroom. They were handed a simple snack and would say, “Thank you” to which a reply of, “You are welcome” was given. As well as a treat, this provided another opportunity to practice English words.
After two months we came to our last class. These students were in grade 6 and this is the final mandatory year for attending school. Most would not continue their education. We were in an economically challenged area and families could not afford to keep their children in school. We hoped the little we’d been able to teach them would be of benefit to them in the future.
As the class ended, the children surprised each teacher with handmade cards of thanks. Some even contained a few of the English phrases learned. I received my cards and hugs of thanks with tears of gratitude. The opportunity to have been part of this important program was a highlight of my time in Mexico. I look forward to returning to volunteer again next year.
The previous day’s heavy snowfall had left a large accumulation on our second story deck. We discussed the best way to remove it. If we tossed it by shovelfuls over the deck it would be blown onto the patio of our downstairs neighbour. Definitely not the best idea.
The only option for disposal seemed to be in our bathtub. My husband scooped up a bin full of snow and I carried it inside and dumped it in the tub before returning the bin to him.
We were surprised how many trips this took and how quickly the bathtub was filled. I took a couple of pictures and sent them to family. The caption said, “This is how I have to build a snowman when we don’t have a yard!”
The more I thought about, the better this idea sounded. I told my husband what I was thinking and he encouraged me to do it.
A large chunk of snow at one end of the tub would be perfect for the head. There wasn’t room to roll the snow into balls so I’d have to sculpt it. Maybe I could build it reclining. An idea for this project was forming in my mind. After much thought, I went to the fridge to choose the perfect carrot for Frosty’s nose.
When I returned to the bathroom, I could see that my project was not going to happen. The snow had melted into one solid mass and was no longer moldable. By morning, all that remained were a few leaves and some dirt to remind me what could have been.
I had the opportunity to do something unique and instead of going for it, thought about it until my window of opportunity passed. All my plans and good intentions mean nothing if I don’t act on them.
All is not lost, though. When I have the opportunity to take a chance and do something different, I will think bathtub full of snow and not waste the opportunity.
Here we are at the beginning of a brand new year, filled with possibilities. This is a time of anticipation and hope for the future.
I recently read something that asked the thought-provoking question, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”
If you are having difficulty coming up with an answer to this, it’s been too long!
What better time than now? I’m not talking about making New Year’s resolutions. Over the years I’ve made many of these; some have been successfully achieved and many others have not. All too often they are forgotten in a couple of months or even weeks.
It’s not another resolution I’m referring to here but the opportunity to follow your dreams, goals and passions. They may seem out of reach. Is it crazy to take steps towards something that you can’t be certain of?
I guess that depends if you can be content in your safe, predictable life or if you want more. I’ve discovered by forcing myself to stretch I can reach much more than I thought possible.
I needed to step out of my comfort zone and do something that required a leap of faith. This required suspending my limiting thoughts and believing in the possibilities.
A quote by Mark Batterson (author of The Circle Maker) helped me put this into perspective. “I learned that if you’re not willing to put yourself in ‘this is crazy’ situations, you’ll never experience ‘this is awesome’ moments.
So, call me crazy but I am determined to start this year not with resolutions, but with embracing first time experiences and the possibilities they hold. I hope you will do the same. It’s going to be awesome!
Anyone who has travelled to a Mexican tourist destination understands the persistence of people trying to convince them to attend a time share presentation.
On a recent vacation we faced this many times each day. When walking down the streets of the city it felt as though we were constantly being offered gifts in exchange for an hour of our time to attend a presentation. We knew from experience that the hours we’d have to spend and the pressure we’d face were not worth it for us.
I felt rude when we ignored the people and kept on walking. The few times we did stop to be polite the offers were sweetened when we declined. We were offered tickets, tours and cash. My husband would politely but firmly refuse all offers, saying he wasn’t willing to share his vacation time with them.
We talked about this later and said that the greatest time share is the one Jesus offers us. It doesn’t give us a week or two a year, but guarantees eternity with him. His offer never changes and no pressure is applied. I won’t be given more rewards if I hold out. There has never been a better offer than his and never will be. I am so grateful that because of my relationship with Jesus I will be sharing my time in eternity with him.
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. (John 14:1-3 NLT)
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:11-12 NIV)
I was one of millions who watched the Toronto Blue Jays come from behind to win their division series last week. It was a game that will be talked about for years to come.
You don’t have to be a baseball fan to appreciate their accomplishment. Despite a play that delayed the game, was ruled against them and put the other team in the lead, the Blue Jays didn’t give up. During the second half of an historic seventh inning they fought back, took the lead and ended up winning the game and the series.
One player, when asked about the play that had the potential to defeat them, said that it created an opportunity for them to do something better. That was a statement that inspired me.
The potential these words hold is staggering. Instead of being discouraged and giving up when life throws me a curve ball, I could look at the situation as an opportunity to do something better.
Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” He also said to take heart because he has overcome the world. The troubles I face will not defeat me if I face them together with him. With his guidance they will provide me the opportunity to do something so much better than I could accomplish on my own.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
Recently I purchased my first pair of cowboy boots. My husband and I had talked many times about getting some of these western boots. The push needed to actually shop for them came when we were invited to a Western theme wedding.
One thing I quickly learned was to disregard everything I knew about the size I would need. These boots didn’t fit the same as any other footwear I had ever had. Both my husband and I purchased boots one full size smaller than our regular sizes. Without guidance from a knowledgable person, neither of us would have thought to try on something so different from our usual size.
We talked about this and wondered if there was a life lesson here. Opportunities sometimes come that I automatically disregard because I don’t think they’re the right fit for me. Sometimes it seems like things are too big for me to handle. Other times it doesn’t seem that they are big enough. If something looks too limiting I don’t want to even try it.
What I need to remember is that with God’s guidance any circumstance can be made the right fit for me. He may stretch me in ways I never thought possible. He may also ask me to become smaller in order to serve Him. He is the one that sees the entire picture and will mold me to fit the plan He has for me.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares The Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
My husband and I were on vacation and found ourselves in a busy city on a holiday weekend. The city was teeming with people and it was difficult to maneuver around the crowds on the sidewalks. Several times we came to sets of door to go through. It was interesting to watch as people lined up to go through the one set of open doors when there were two more sets available. All they had to do was open the door and walk through. We chose to open the doors and by doing so bypassed many line ups.
As I thought about this, I realized how this is a reflection of life for me. I can line up and blindly follow others or I can consciously look for the door that the Lord has provided for me to walk through. He has given me many opportunities to move ahead into the life prepared for me. These are not forced on me, but are options that are mine for the choosing. I can blindly go through life, following the crowd, or I can choose to follow Jesus. He has promised to be the door to the life prepared for me.
I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. John 10:9 NKJV
While talking with a friend recently, he told me that he was going to go and grab a coffee. Very quickly he corrected himself and changed that to grabbing a cup of coffee, saying that he had never actually managed to grab coffee. Laughing, I said that it would just slip through his fingers.
With this visual in mind, I started to think of things that I have let slip through my fingers. There have been many opportunities that I have let pass me by because I didn’t have the confidence to just go for them. It didn’t seem to me that I had the skills or abilities needed and I was afraid to fail.
A good friend challenged me on one of these opportunities saying “What if God wants to bless you through this?” That helped me to realize that on my own I may not be able to accomplish what I would like to, but with God guiding me, all things are possible. By letting opportunities slip through my fingers, I am refusing his gifts to me and missing out on the blessings that these gifts may bring. I have a little plaque with a quote from Roy Lessin that says: “God not only knows where He is taking you, but He also knows how to get you there.” If I respond when he calls and trust him to lead me, there is no limit to what he may accomplish through me.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV