I’ve been thinking of one word a lot lately.

No, it’s not queso.

(I already soaked up that $4.00 goodness at dinner the other night).

The word is actually acceptance.

Let me give a little backstory. The other day in class, one of my students corrected me on something that I wish I could remember now, but it escapes me (but I’d venture to say it had a turkey on it).

Now, some teachers would be super embarrassed about it, especially since I’m the teacher of first-graders. However, I jump at those opportunities. You want to make a six year-old feel like he is a king? Have him prove his teacher.  I said something to the effect of, “Thanks for teaching me!”

His look of awe is one I try to keep in mind during the rough days, followed by, “You mean I taught YOU something?!”

All the time.  In fact, there’s some days – and I kinda hate to say it – that the kids teach me more, than I probably teach them.

Last Wednesday was one of those.

One sweet girl in my class can be best summed up as to know her is to love her.  If you know anything about Junie B. Jones, she is that book character come to life. Tries her best, but can frustrate you to pieces, yet somehow after teaching your heart out with her, she always ends up making you laugh without trying.

Well, while checking folders last Wednesday morning, I got to hers.  She came in a little late, and I told her “Good Morning” without looking up, as she began to unpack.

I opened up her folder and a note from her mother fell out.  It informed me that she decided to cut quite a bit of her own hair at home (like I said, Junie. B. Jones.), and they tried their best to mend it, but in her words, “It’ll have to take time to grow out.” Her mom explained that she was feeling very self-conscious and emotional about it, so to kinda keep my eyes and ears open.

You know, kids get a bad reputation. The media paints them all as bullies, technology-entranced, and self-entitled.  And if I am being completely honest, I can occasionally fall into that trap.  I did on Wednesday. I was already mentally preparing how I’d handle it when (not if) this sweet girl got her feelings hurt by “kids being kids.”

Well.

I didn’t want to bring extra attention to the situation, so I didn’t say anything as she began to walk to her table.  This is always a quiet part of the day, so it was easy to listen in on any conversation that I just knew would take place. After all, I’m the teacher, right?

I watched as the kids, of course, looked as she went to her seat.

And I watched as she sat down, pretending to be very focused, but I could practically see her analyzing the looks coming towards her.

Just as I was about to open my big mouth to give a casual reminder that one of our rules is to be kind to others, I stopped.

And I watched.

And I listened, without reminding them to be quiet during morning work.

You know what I heard from her classmates?
Did you get a haircut? It looks great!

I like your headband!

I really like your haircut!

And you know what I saw from this sweet girl?

Her shoulders eased.

She leaned back.

And she gave a huge smile.

They were kids being kids. And let me tell you, nothing will make me prouder of them than that moment last week. Not a test result, a quiet line, or writing all their letters/numbers the correct way and neatly (but that may come a close second).

We all hear these same questions in our head at some point(s) during our lives:

Did she mean to ignore me when I walked by?
Were those whispers followed a laugh about me?
What are they going to think of my outfit? My haircut?

You can be six years-old, or ninety-six, it doesn’t matter. We all have felt unaccepted, whether we admit to it or not. And we especially won’t admit that we’ve been the cause for some of those feelings, too.

I’ve been there and still revisit that hurtful place, every now and then. And I know some friends who are going through it now, and feel like their good is never good enough.

Let me tell you. It is.

And let me tell you why.

Because Jesus Christ, who lived the perfect life, accepts you for who you are.

Bad haircut and all.

Temper and all.

Insecurity and all.

He even loved you enough to die for you.

Every morning on my short drive to school, I say a little prayer in the car.  I always end it by asking God to let me be a light for others, for my students, and for my coworkers.  And my friends will tell you I do better some days than others.

My kiddos, on that Wednesday morning, were the light of Jesus to that little girl, even though His name wasn’t said and can’t be taught.  Some of them may not even know Him, but I pray that I and their classmates that do will show the grace and acceptance we’ve been given.

You know, kids being kids. And teaching their teacher a very valuable lesson in the process.

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. – Romans 15:7

You will never influence the world by trying to be like it.

Another Year of Thanks (And Rambling)

How is it not midnight?

This is my first thought around 7 p.m. every weekday night, as I’m fighting yawns, all the while saying (scolding) myself, “You can make it at least two more hours… YOU’RE TWENTY-FIVE.”

Then again, my dear husband just said to me, “Wow. Your eyes look really dark.”

Keeping that spark alive, my friends.

Instead of just refreshing Pinterest tonight, I thought I’d write my annual Thanksgiving blog.

(I know. I KNOW. You have waited seven, long November days for this to arrive this year. I’m so sorry to disappoint).

To remind everyone, I take all of my would-be thankful Facebook posts for the month of November, and post it on here.  Because nothing says, “I’m really thankful” than getting it all over with in one post.

What can I say, I’m a giver.

Long story longer, here’s my thirty thankful things for twenty-thirteen (honorable mention: alliteration).

(Keep in mind, this is not in order of importance. I really do love Jesus more than Connie Britton.)

1. Country music has been such a great friend this year… to sing along with my actual friends, to blast in the car thinking the songwriter must have somehow read my mind. Although, none of that wannabe rock garbage that was (most of) the CMAs last night. (Between counting down until I go to bed at 9 p.m., and calling today’s country music too rock, just call me MeMaw).

2. My first grade colleagues who happen to be some of the best friends I have. It’s nice to know you can just vent, laugh, or laugh so you won’t cry with ladies who give you a hug or an invite to Mexican to forget about it. Love my BBBs.

3. My health, as I have been reminded of how fragile it is from close friends the past year.

4. The town, Nashville. I’m never reminded more than when I’m walking down Broadway to the Bridgestone for a show. Or when I can just go to the Opry’s website and see if anyone I want to see is playing this weekend. And drive 30 minutes to get there.

5.  The show, Nashville It’s a total nighttime soap opera, but I’m slightly obsessed with the music. I just need for Rayna and Deacon to get back together already.

6. My Redeemer. I’ve seen friends of mine wrestle with some pretty tough stuff this year, but one thing remains: Jesus is faithful and forgiving. He cleanses us of our own faults. I hope I never lose the impact of the realization that I don’t have to carry around every sin on my back. He died and did it for me. And you.

7. My darling husband. He may comment on my dark circles, but he also understands when a bowl of cereal is for dinner some nights. He always has been, but this year especially he has been my rock and biggest encourager.

8. Sprite. Let’s keep it real here.

9.  My twenty-one first graders. First grade has brought new challenges, but also new rewards. Love them all and the way they start each day with a smile, no matter what happened the day before.

10. My Mama and Daddy. Not many grown adults would love to vacation with their parents, but I loved it all. Even the boring shell museum. They are going to be fabulous grandparents one day. :-)

11. My church! This past week, our sermon was bilingual.  Our pastor preached in English, while a campus translated in Spanish. It was awesome and reflective of the diverse children of God (but bless my pastor’s heart, he doesn’t cheer for the right team).

12. The Crimson Tide. Look, they have brought me much joy over the past several weekends. I am going to RELISH in the victories while they last. (AJ, are you sure you have to graduate this year? It’s really overrated).

13. That I can put a big, fat check beside the words “Master’s Degree” and that the timing worked out how it did. Honestly, I don’t think I could’ve done it this semester. Hallelujah.

14. Howie the Honda and Esmeralda the Escape. Thankful for two dependable cars that have zero bills attached to them.

15. Witnessing this Sanibel sunset (despite the RUTHLESS no-see-ums):

16. Former students of mine— I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of the whispered “Mrs. Schultz!!!!” while furiously waving at me or being nearly tackled by a hug.

17. Our soldiers, especially after a friend of mine serving over there posted a picture the other day from his day at work. That’ll put things in perspective.

18. Spirit Days. (That noise you just heard was all my West peeps are saying, “Amen”).

19. The snow days we will have this year (If you build say it, they will come).

20.  Lots of sunny days for Recess this year. I think we’ve had only three Indoor Recesses and that is worthy of a praise.

21.  Uncrustables. Look, I know it’s more affordable to make my own PB & Js. But right now, that is one less to-do and we’re not counting our pennies (yet).  (Plus, I buy the whole wheat, reduced sugar ones so they’re totes healthy).

22. Our home.  There are some days, when I pull in the driveway, that I still wonder how we found the perfect house for us. Front porch and all.

23. My hammock! Maybe the best birthday gift ever (besides seeing #24), seeing as I was biting the head off anyone who even looked at me wrong around that time.  The hubs knew it’d make me sing “Hakuna Matata” for at least a few minutes.

24. The thirty-second N’Sync comeback this year.  Instantly, I was 13-years-old, laying on the grass at Starwood (RIP), singing “You may hate me, but it ain’t no lie, BABY BYE BYE BYE.” Choreography moves and all.

25. Girl Meets World. I have very low expectations, but I’m on board with anything Cory & Topanga related.

26. Croutons. I like a little bit of salad with them.

27. My new iPhone 5s and its cover. But mostly the cover because it’s beachy and was only 12 bucks at Academy. It even says “Salt Life” on it because I’m very fancy.

28. Tim Hawkins. Kudos to my Mama for making me go to his show earlier this year because HILARIOUS. You must watch this.

29. Daylight Savings Time. Yes it gets dark by 5 o’clock, but more importantly, I’m not arriving to school at dark-thirty.

30. Lambchop. My version of Linus’ comfort blanket growing up and I still have her. And my class loves for her to read poetry and act extremely silly every Friday. Someone should get control of her, these kids have fun in school on those days. (You knew I’d say something somewhat snarky). ;)

Wow, if you read this whole thing, I should give you a “No Homework” pass for my next blog.

I gotta say, I’m quite proud of myself for not using one of my entries as “That this list is over,” as I have in years past.

You can just add it to your thankful list.

Hope you have a happy November and Thanksgiving!