During a weekly spelling test with a class of first-graders, I noticed that one of my students, Cindy, hadn’t written anything on her test. “I can’t remember any answers!” she choked out through tears. I took her hand and led her outside to take a few deep breaths. Together, we went over the phonetic sounds of the spelling words I’d taught that week. With some coaching and encouragement, she returned to her desk and managed to recall two out of eight spelling words. She was relieved to have remembered that much, but the experience seemed to have dealt her shaky confidence a hard blow.
Life is often likened to going to school, and that’s a good analogy. God allows all sorts of things to happen in our lives to test us, to see how we’ll react to them, to teach us lessons, and to help us grow spiritually. His desire through all this, of course, is that we’ll apply ourselves, take the lessons to heart, learn from them, and live up to our full potential. In short, life’s tests are designed by Him to help us become the people He knows we can be.
“The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” This line, inviting us to a world of exploration, was penned by Robert Lewis Stevenson in A Child’s Garden of Verses, and my father often quoted it to me when I was young. He had an insatiable curiosity, and as I grew up, the stacks of books in our little house grew higher on every shelf and in every corner. If we wanted to know something, we got books and investigated or we found people who were knowledgeable in the subject. Besides the books, there were all types of crafts we were interested in at the moment—weaving and spinning and dying wool, wood and leather work, calligraphy, crochet, embroidery, and innumerable kits.
Everyone has times in their life when they feel that they’ve reached bottom and that things couldn’t possibly get worse. For me, one of these times happened when I found myself having to cope with a totally unfamiliar lifestyle and surroundings in a village outside Belgrade.
Have you ever thought of taking up a new sport, learning to play a musical instrument or just stepping out of your comfort zone to do something new and different? Perhaps the desire was always there but there was always something that was stopping you from actually doing it? Well, let me tell you a short, true story.
I read something the other day that’s been running through my mind ever since: “The system you have in place today is set up to get exactly the results you are getting today.” Since then, I’ve tried to challenge myself to have different reactions than I would typically have.
I had struggled with and overcome the demons of self-doubt and fear of failure, launched out into the deep, put pen to paper, and written my first short inspirational piece.
I sat back and read it through several times. Pleased with my modest effort, I submitted the piece to a monthly magazine for possible publication.
It was the end of another long workday. In my first semester as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, each day brought dozens of new challenges, which I failed to conquer. The concepts I tried to pass on to my students would somehow escape them, leaving me to groan over their exams. The principal of my school had been telling me that my students weren’t making enough visible progress in their English. Parents were complaining about my classroom management methods. I was a failure in every aspect of my work.