Sunday, 17 May 2020

Lessons from Lockdown: The Essential Thing (Classroom Edition)

Almost two months have gone by since my first Lessons from Lockdown blog post, and I never imagined it would be this long before my second post. To be honest, I initially created this post on April 8th and have had it in draft mode ever since. Two days later, my grandmother passed away unexpectedly, so with that, plus online teaching and finishing my master's program, blogging had to be put on hold again. I still have a lot to share, and I'm looking forward to blogging more regularly now that I'm done with grad school and am more settled in to the rhythm of teaching online.

In my first post, I talked about my relationship with Jesus as an essential thing, something that I need to prioritize during this time. Today's post kind of bounces off of that one, but in the context of relationships in the classroom. Over the past few years, so much has been emphasized as essential in the teaching world. We have found ourselves caught up in a world of Pinterest classrooms, Instagram-worthy lessons, and the latest classroom management tricks. It's easy to believe that all of these things are extremely important, especially when we see them everywhere we look. 

But this situation is reminding me that classroom decorations, fancy bulletin boards, elaborate lessons, the latest Instagram fads, and Target Dollar Spot finds really don't matter. Don't get me wrong; I am not condemning any of these things. I enjoy them just as much as the next teacher. However, when all of that is gone, what remains is our relationships with our students. 

Just over six weeks before schools closed here, we experienced a 7.7 magnitude earthquake during the school day. It was a surreal experience to feel the floor shaking beneath my feet and to look around and see my classroom decor rocking back and forth. But after it was over, a passage from Hebrews 12 came to my mind:

"At that time [God's] voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, 'Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.' The words 'once more' indicate the removing of what can be shakenthat is, created thingsso that what cannot be shaken may remain."
- Hebrews 12:26-27 

I spent the next few days reflecting on that passage and its implications for me as a teacher. Here are the words I wrote in my journal:

God's kingdom represents all that is eternal. It is "a kingdom that cannot be shaken" (v. 28). So often my focus drifts to what is temporary, but as I saw things shaking around me yesterday, I realized that none of that stuff matters in light of eternity. This year, God wants me to build His kingdom; I know that. But yesterday, He clarified that command and vision. The kingdom He's calling me to build is His unshakable kingdom. As a teacher, that means teaching with an eternal perspective - focusing not on gimmicks and decorations (even though those things can be fun for kids) but on loving my students fiercely and sharing Christ with them.

When I wrote those words, I had no idea that just a few weeks later the temporary would be shaken again. I had no idea that I would be teaching from my ordinary, brown couch instead of in my bright and colorful classroom. I had no idea that I wouldn't be able to do my usual holiday activities for St. Patrick's Day and Easter or create cute bulletin boards around the room. And while I do miss those aspects of teaching, I'm thankful for what remains.

Each day, I get to see my students' faces (albeit through a computer screen, but it's certainly better than nothing). I get to hear their stories, see their smiles, and encourage them when they don't have a smile. I get to continue building relationships with them and loving them, even though it's from a distance. As I teach my class each day, I get to focus on the essential thing, the thing that remains when everything else has been shaken.

Teachers, we may not have access to all the bells and whistles right now. And you know what? That's okay. Let's use this time to invest in what truly lasts - our relationships with the precious children we teach each day.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Lessons from Lockdown: The Essential Thing

Lockdown. It's a word I sure didn't expect to be hearing in 2020, but here we are. The world as we know it seems to have turned upside down over the last couple of weeks, and the Coronavirus has caused a level of change and disruption that we never imagined was possible. However, I think it’s been helping all of us to learn some valuable lessons too. It's been a long time since I've blogged on here, but I feel compelled to share what I'm learning during this time through a blog series called Lessons from Lockdown. (Ironically, when I came up with that title, there was no official lockdown here in the Cayman Islands, even though most people are being cautious and staying home. However, starting tonight, we will be going into a full lockdown for a few days to try to prevent further spread of the virus in the days ahead.)

While praying last night, I was thanking God for the specific lessons that He has been teaching me through this situation. As more and more businesses close their doors, one of the things I’ve been reflecting on is what is truly essential and what’s not. In the middle of my prayer, the Holy Spirit brought to my mind a passage of Scripture that also speaks about what is essential:

“‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” 
- ‭‭Luke‬ ‭10:41-42‬ ‭NIV‬‬ (emphasis mine)

In this passage, Jesus was reminding Martha - who was worried about all that needed to be done - about the most essential thing: sitting in His presence. Mary, the sister of Martha, had chosen to sit at Jesus’ feet, to spend time with Him listening to His word (v. 39). Martha, on the other hand, was “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made” during Jesus’ visit (v. 49).

Over the past few days, I’ve found myself feeling a bit like Martha. I too am “worried and upset about many things” (v. 41). It’s not an exact parallel, as Martha was busy serving Jesus, but many days I’ve spent more time checking the news and focusing on my to do list than sitting in the presence of my Savior.

Martha’s concerns were valid and her intentions were good; Jesus wasn’t denying that. He wasn’t telling her to forget about her household responsibilities. Instead, He was reminding her that her greatest need was simply being with Him and hearing His word. And that’s my greatest need too.

The words “Mary has chosen what is better” remind me that I have a choice in how I spend my time right now. I can choose to spend my whole day reading Coronavirus news articles and statistics, running around trying to check every single thing off my to do list, or I can prioritize time with Jesus.

Jesus’ words to Martha were an invitation to enter into His presence, where there is abundant joy (Psalm 16:11). It’s the same invitation He gives in Matthew 11:28: “‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’” 

In the midst of our anxiety and exhaustion, Jesus beckons us to come to Him. May we use this time in isolation to do just that.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Tiny Classroom

Have you ever had to teach in a super small classroom? In my first year of teaching, that was exactly what happened. My very first classroom actually used to be a storage closet for PE equipment (not even joking) and was eventually expanded a bit so that it could be converted into a classroom. I only had six students that year (not joking about that either), so we had no trouble fitting in the space, and I also didn't have that much stuff because it was only my first year of teaching.

Fast forward four years, two of them being in a large room, and I found out I was going back to the #tinyclassroomlife, this time to another small room at my school. (I don't know if tiny classrooms are a thing at any other school, but they definitely are at my school! If tiny houses are a thing now, don't you think tiny classrooms should be too? Ha!) This move wouldn't have been so bad, except for the fact that I had accumulated quite a bit of stuff during my two years in that large room and wasn't sure how this tiny room was going to work for me. I knew it would be a challenge, but I was up for the task. Two years after moving into that small room, I can honestly say that the transition back to #tinyclassroomlife definitely wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Today, I'm sharing five tips for getting the most out of your tiny classroom.

1. Prioritize 

This is a given when you're in a smaller space. Some bulletin boards, items, classroom spaces, etc. are more important than others. Some questions to ask yourself are: What are the non-negotiables? What can be eliminated or minimized? For me, a teacher's desk was something I could do without (more about that under the next tip!), but a large classroom library with cozy seating was a must. I also eliminated my word wall and gave each student their own personal word wall to keep in their desk. This worked super well and saved bulletin board space! 

We spend a lot of time in our classroom library every day. We go there for morning book shopping, read alouds, and read to self/read to someone time. I have no regrets about using a big chunk of my room for our library and my students love it! Some teachers prefer a smaller classroom library and that's fine too - it's all about what works best for you and your students!

2. Allow spaces to serve multiple purposes 

I alluded to this in the previous tip, but when you're working with a tiny classroom, you're forced to create spaces that serve more than one purpose. In my classroom, the library is also our whole group meeting space. I don't have room for two different carpeted areas, so the rug in our classroom library works just fine for whole group mini lessons. 

I also use my small group table as my teacher desk. Some teachers prefer to have a completely separate area for themselves, but if that's not a big deal to you, it's a great way to save on space! It was a challenge at first to keep the table from getting cluttered, but I've gotten much better about keeping things in their place and cleaning the table off before I leave each day.

This picture was taken in the middle of classroom setup, so I didn't have my stools around the table yet. But you get the idea. Having all the storage around the table also helps to prevent it from getting too cluttered. It may not be an actual teacher desk, but I was still able to add some personal touches to this area. I can't help but smile every time I see it!

3. Use wall shelves and carts for storage instead of bulky bookshelves and bins

In my current classroom, I've learned to appreciate wall shelves and rolling carts. They allow you to store so much in a tiny space! One of my favorite things about my 2016-2017 classroom was having a countertop for my paper baskets. I was so disappointed when I moved into my current classroom and realized there was no countertop. I ended up adding a long floating shelf against the wall of my classroom and it works just as well without taking up half the space of a countertop! My paper baskets sit right on top of the shelf and the area doesn't look too cluttered because it's not a bulky bookshelf or large storage unit.

Adding a floating shelf to hold my paper baskets was the perfect solution for my tiny classroom! And there's plenty of space underneath to store my students' book boxes!
I also added a wall unit (similar to a pegboard) in my teacher area for additional storage. It was the perfect storage option for my supplies, photos, decor items, and grading caddy! If you're interested in purchasing this unit for your own classroom, you can find it on Amazon here.

4. Try to only display/keep out materials that you need to access daily 

Think carefully about the materials you want to display in your classroom. Are there some you need to access all year long? Which materials do you only need at certain times of the year? When I was in a large classroom, I had tons of bookshelves and kept so many materials out all year long. One example of this is my math manipulatives. While it was nice to have them out all the time, I just didn't have the space to keep them on display in my current classroom. I decided to store them inside a cupboard in my closet and only take out the ones I'm using each week. This has worked really well and saved a lot of classroom space. I also use my closet to store monthly bins with seasonal materials and I only take those out as I need them. There are some materials that we use all the time (such as whisper phones for guided reading), and I store those items in the classroom instead of the closet.

5. Use space creatively

When you're in a small classroom, you'll be surprised at all the creative ways that you end up using the space you have! Something I've started doing is using my windows and/or blinds to hang student work, anchor charts, or reference materials. (You can see an example of this in the very first photo in this blog post.) I don't do this with all my windows, nor do I do it all year round, or it would end up looking cluttered. But if you really need to display something, it works as a short-term solution.

Other creative ways I've used my classroom space include placing student book boxes under my floating shelf, storing bins under tables, and keeping my supplies in a teacher toolbox. All of these are great space savers, whether you are in a tiny room or not!

These five principles have worked well for me over the past two years, but my classroom is still a work in progress. I usually take the summer to reflect on what is/isn't working and make the necessary changes when I return to set up. I love that we get a chance to do that every year as teachers! What are some of the ways that you maximize space in your classroom?

Saturday, 6 July 2019

5 Reasons Why I'm Spending Less Time on Instagram This Summer (And Why You Should Too)

It's been a while since I've blogged on here, but now that I'm officially on summer break, I'm excited to get back into it! Honestly, I'm a horrible blogger, maybe posting twice a year. Instagram is where I am most active, and I have been posting regularly on my account @teachinginthetropicsblog since I started it 5 years ago. However, if you follow me on there, you may have noticed that this year I've been posting on Instagram a lot less frequently than I used to. There's a reason for that - five reasons actually - and I'm sharing them today in hopes that someone reading this will dare to spend a little less time on the Gram.

Disclaimer: The intention of this post is not to bash Instagram. It is actually my favorite social media platform and there are so many positive things about it! However, as I've discovered, even a good thing can become harmful in excess. As I share my journey with you, my goal is to show you the JOMO (Joy of Missing Out) that I've discovered in reducing my time on Instagram.

1. Instagram causes comparison, which breeds discontentment.

Instagram has often been referred to as a highlight reel, and even though we are aware of that, we still can't help but compare ourselves to strangers on the internet. Although I consider myself to be secure in my identity as a teacher and as an individual, I have found myself falling into the comparison trap at times and envying the lifestyle, skills, possessions, and achievements of the people I follow. I tend to think, "If I had access to the technology that she has in her classroom, I'd be a better teacher" or "If I had a home office like that, I'd be happier and more productive." Instead of counting my blessings and being content with all that I do have, Instagram causes me to focus on what I don't have, which is definitely a joy-killer. Don't get me wrong - the temptation to compare myself to others is present in real life too, but Instagram brings it to a whole new level.

2. Instagram causes me to buy things I don't need.

This point goes hand in hand with the first one. The hashtag #instagrammademedoit, though funny, has become the sad truth behind a lot of people's purchases over the years, including my own. I can't tell you how many things I have bought for my classroom after seeing others post about them on Instagram. This hasn't always been a bad thing; a few of those purchases have actually been quite useful. But if I'm being honest, most of them were totally unnecessary. Thankfully, I have not been able to purchase everything I have seen on Instagram. I live in the Cayman Islands where there is no Target, Michael's, Dollar Tree, Amazon Prime, etc., which means that I physically can't buy something as soon as I see it in my feed. However, I go on vacation to the US every summer, which happens to be the most tempting time of year on Instagram with all the cute back to school stuff rolling out. I have often found myself going overboard with my shopping on my summer trips and have realized that I probably wouldn't buy all these things if I hadn't seen them on Instagram first. I haven't gone to the US yet this summer, but as the date grows closer, I have been reining myself in and reminding myself that more stuff won't make me a better or happier teacher/person. Something that has been helpful for me is to reread a blog post I wrote on this very topic almost two years ago. Click here to read it!

3. Instagram causes me to become self-focused.

We have never lived in more self-focused culture than the one we live in today and Instagram ultimately encourages that. I've noticed that the more time I spend on Instagram, the more self-obsessed I become. I begin to crave the attention and validation of others, wanting more likes, more followers, more recognition - ultimately putting myself on a pedestal. The time I give to Instagram each day also causes me to focus on myself, and not in a good way. When our heads are down in our phones, we tune out the real world around us and neglect the needs of others. This summer, I want to spend more of my time focusing on serving God and others instead of myself.

4. Instagram takes time away from what truly matters.

This also builds on the last point. I am embarrassed to tell you how much time I was spending on Instagram before I began setting limits for myself. I spent hours on there each day, especially once stories rolled out. (Anyone else find it hard to stop watching instastories once you start?) I also realized that the more I posted, the more time I spent in the app responding to comments and DMs, which is one of the reasons I no longer post on there as frequently as I used to. I have found myself sitting next to my grandparents (who are 85 and 86) and scrolling through Instagram instead of having a conversation with them. Although they are in good health, I do not know how much longer I will have them here with me, and when they are gone, I know I won't think to myself, "Gosh, I wish I had spent more time on Instagram." In fact, I know I won't be saying that when my own life is almost over. With that in mind, I want to be more present this summer, to steward my time well and spend it cultivating relationships with the people around me.

5. Instagram isn't necessary to be a good teacher.

For a long time, I bought into the myth that I needed Instagram to be a good teacher. I believed that Instagram would provide me with all the tips and tricks to become a better teacher for my students. Yes, Instagram certainly provides us with a wealth of information, but all of it can be found through other resources as well. There are times during the school year when I chose to unplug from Instagram and guess what? My students still learned. I was still a good teacher. And so are you. That lesson is still awesome, even if you don't share it on Instagram. You are still a great teacher, even if you don't implement the latest teaching trends or decorate your classroom. You are still a great teacher, even if you have one follower on Instagram. Because the truth is, teaching isn't and never was about Instagram; it's about loving our students well and teaching them with every ounce of passion in our hearts.

Friends, there is so much more to life than Instagram. And that's what I'm keeping in mind this summer. The real FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) isn't when we miss out on all that's happening on Instagram; it's when we miss out on all that's in front of us in the real world. This summer, I'm excited to experience the JOMO (Joy of Missing Out) that comes when I choose to spend less time on Instagram and more time on what matters most. I'm excited to experience the beauty of being present, to open my eyes to everything I didn't see while they were glued to my Instagram feed. Will you join me this summer? Will you dare to be present, scroll a little less, and spend time on what truly matters? If this is a challenge for you like it is for me, I would love to connect with you so we can encourage one another. Feel free to leave a comment on this post or email me at!

Sunday, 30 December 2018

A Year of Light: Reflections from 2018

Exactly one year ago I wrote a blog post sharing my thoughts on my future and my hopes for 2018. I didn't make any resolutions; I stopped making New Year's resolutions years ago. Like most people, I found I never really kept them. However, I did end that blog post with a promise of sorts:

"As I enter this new year, I will still ask questions, have dreams, and yes, even make plans, but hold onto them loosely. In 2018, I will choose to cling tightly to the only permanent thing in a world full of temporary - the hope I profess in Christ (Hebrews 10:23). In 2018, I will cling to God's promises and His truth, with the assurance that He is working in all things for my good and His glory (Romans 8:28)."

 A few days into the new year, God gave me a single word: light. I saw it everywhere - in Scripture, in books, and in everyday life. One night as I was driving home from a church service, I saw the biggest, brightest full moon. As I looked straight ahead, I noticed how brightly it shone in the darkness, as if guiding me home. In that moment I knew God was showing me that 2018 would be a year of light.

The thing about light is that it shines brightest in the darkness, and darkness would certainly follow. A few weeks into 2018, I was faced with a decision that launched me into one of the most difficult seasons of my life. Many nights it felt as if I was grappling around in the darkness, but the Light was always there.

"The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear?" 
- Psalm 27:1a

 Although it seems silly, I used to think I had to be afraid of someone to relate to that verse. But I've realized that oftentimes it's not someone that we're afraid of - it's something. As you can probably guess from last year's post, my something was uncertainty, not knowing what the future holds for me. But in 2018, I learned that God is my Light, and the darkness is not dark to Him (Psalm 139:12). I learned that this means I will follow Him, even into the darkness and uncertainty, because He will lead me where He wants me to be. 

In the midst of the darkness, He led me on several new adventures, including the pursuit of a master's degree in Ministry/Women's Leadership and attending my first Teachers Pay Teachers Conference. Both of those new adventures were a step outside my comfort zone, but through them I also learned that God created me to be a light that reflects Him. 

"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." 
- Matthew 5:14-16

 As a teacher, this means I am a light for Christ in my school and in my classroom. I am blessed to teach at a Christian school where I can worship and talk about the Lord with my students. However, I have learned that my words and actions - the way I interact with students and coworkers - are the biggest reflection of Christ that I have to offer. I have failed to be a light on many occasions, but God is teaching me day by day to abide in Him so that His love and light shine out of me (John 15:4-5).

In the summer, as I was getting ready for the 2018-2019 school year, I decided to carry the theme of light into my classroom. I used light bulb clip art on my door and student work board, and added the quote "Let your light shine!" to my wall. I also created light themed Bible verse posters and hung them on the outside wall of my classroom, so I would read those precious truths every time I come and go each day. Everywhere I turn, I'm reminded that God is my Light and I am created to reflect Him.

Over the last couple of days, I've seen a lot of posts on social media saying things like "2018 was good to me" or "2018 just wasn't my year." I really don't know if 2018 was good to me or if it was my year. But God was good, and He never stopped being my God. He is good, even when the circumstances of my life are not, and His love is unending (Psalm 107:1). Romans 8:28 reminds me that He works in all things, good and bad, for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His eternal purpose. And because of that amazing promise, I think of 2018 and rejoice.

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Friday, 27 July 2018

To the Teacher Struggling to Get Through Classroom Setup...

Dear teacher,

I have a confession to make. Do you see this classroom in the background of my blog post header, my 2016-2017 classroom? At one point, I didn't know if I was going to get through with setting it up. One day during classroom setup, I found myself sitting on the floor, slumped against the cabinets, breathing deeply and choking back tears. Not because the work was overwhelming. On the contrary - that was the one year I hadn't had to move classrooms, so a lot of my bulletin boards and posters were still set up from the previous year. Yet I was still struggling to get through my classroom setup because I couldn't seem to focus. I was going through an extremely difficult time in my personal life and that day in particular was probably one of the hardest days yet.

I remember wondering how I could possibly finish what I had to do over the next few days when the dark cloud of my current circumstances seemed to loom over me at every turn. Even the bright and happy colors of my classroom couldn't change the overwhelming feelings that I felt.

I'm sharing this not for pity, but to let you know that you are not alone. We are teachers, but we are first and foremost human beings. We have our struggles, things we go through in our personal lives, and we bravely shut the door and push them aside as we teach our kids each day. But during the summer, with more time on our hands, we often have to face these struggles head on. And that may mean that when the time comes to go back to school and start setting up, we still don't feel ready.

That day during my classroom setup occurred just a few months after I made the most important decision of my life - to serve God wholeheartedly. (You can read more about that decision here and here.) 2016 had been a difficult year for me, one that I knew I wouldn't be able to get through without the Lord. And two years later, I can say that I was definitely right about that. But in that moment, while slumping against my cabinets, I wasn't even sure if God could help me. I wasn't sure about anything, especially about how I was going to make it through the next few days. But in the midst of my struggles, I learned something important.

God's grace is sufficient. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul writes about a "thorn in his flesh" (v. 7) - not an actual thorn but some kind of ailment or weakness that he was struggling with. He goes on to say, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). Oftentimes, we wish, just as Paul did, that whatever difficulties we are facing would just go away. But God has taught me that our difficulties, limitations, trials, and failures are an opportunity for Him to show His power in our lives. When we are weak, He is strong.

There's a quote by author Wendy Mass that says, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about." I don't know what you may be going through right now, personally or professionally. But I do know that on our most difficult days, God's grace is sufficient to carry us through. As you return to your classroom and begin setting up, I want you to know that it's okay to not be okay. It's okay if you find yourself on the floor, like me, holding back tears. And it's okay if you let them all out. It's okay to not know when you're going to feel okay again. In our darkest days, God's light shines brightest; the darkness is not dark to Him (Psalm 139:12). He is so much bigger than our current circumstances and nothing will ever be able to separate us from His unending love (Romans 8:39).

If you are reading this and feel led to reach out, feel free to comment, email me, or message me on my Instagram account. I would be honored to offer a listening ear and pray for you.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

To the Person Who Asked Me About My Future

Several days ago, someone asked me some questions about my future that I honestly couldn't answer.  It's not the first time this has happened to me. When you've grown up on a small island where everyone knows you, these kinds of interactions are the norm. So in that moment, I gave the answer that seems to be the default one in my life lately. I said, "I don't know." I was taken off guard and not sure what else to say, but as I revisited the conversation in my head later on, I realized my answer was incomplete.

To the person who asked me about my future, here's what I really meant to say:

Up until a few years ago, I had all the plans. I had a five year plan, ten year plan, probably even a twenty year plan. I thought I had my life entirely figured out... until one day I realized I didn't.

Over a period of a few months in early 2016, I started to question a lot of things in my life. The five year plan I had come up with during my college years wasn't exactly unfolding the way I expected. The more I thought about the future, the more anxious I became. I started looking everywhere for answers, except for the one place I knew I could truly find them: in the arms of Jesus.

On April 6, 2016, I made a decision to surrender my life and plans to the Lord, to finally obey the call I'd heard for so long and seek Him with my whole heart.

"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
- Jeremiah 29:13

And that I did. Almost two years later, I still haven't found all the answers that I was seeking. But I've discovered something better: hope and confidence in the One who does have the answers, the One who loves me with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3) and has engraved me on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16).

In just twenty months, God has turned my life upside down and filled it with new passions, dreams, and desires. He has given me a new sense of purpose in my life, a passion for His Word, and has placed a burning desire in my heart to share it with others. I am still full of questions, probably even more than before. Surrendering my plans to Him has been difficult and admittedly scary, but with surrender comes freedom. Day by day, I am learning to live by the promise of Matthew 6:33-34.

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." 
- Matthew 6:33-34

 A few months ago, God planted a new dream in my heart, one that wasn't on my original five or ten year plan - to pursue an online master's degree in Christian Ministry. It's a big dream, an exciting dream, a scary dream, but I'll be honest - I have no idea how God will use this dream or what exactly it means for my life and future. I may not know how He will use it, but I know He will. I don't have all the answers and I'm learning to be okay with that. I'm also learning that oftentimes faith requires action without answers. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."

To the person who asked me about my future, I meant what I said to you a few days ago. I was telling the truth when I said, "I don't know." But what I really meant to say was, "I don't know, but God knows." I will never have all the answers, but I can trust in Him because He does.

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!" 
- Romans 11:33

I no longer have a five or ten year plan and maybe that seems foolish. But I've realized that a plan without God is one that isn't worth making. I've realized that I would rather walk with the Lord day by day - even if it is painfully slow - than run ahead of Him. He's teaching me that my purpose isn't found in the answers; my purpose is found in Christ. As I enter this new year, I will still ask questions, have dreams, and yes, even make plans, but hold onto them loosely. In 2018, I will choose to cling tightly to the only permanent thing in a world full of temporary - the hope I profess in Christ (Hebrews 10:23). In 2018, I will cling to God's promises and His truth, with the assurance that He is working in all things for my good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

"Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." 
- Proverbs 19:21