Romans 5:6

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Your Classroom: Your Mission Field

The day has arrived.  Summer break has officially ended and teachers have been busy preparing for the arrival of their students for this school year.  Tomorrow students will file into schools with great expectancy for all that this year holds for them.

Students and parents may never know the countless hours that teachers (along with their spouses and closest friends) spend in preparation for tomorrow.  They may never understand all of the decisions that were made surrounding just one bulletin board.  They may never appreciate all of the personal sacrifices of your time and your own money that you have made to ensure that this year is great for your students.

You certainly didn’t choose this profession to receive recognition.  The long days and even longer evenings grading papers and updating class websites and such wouldn’t create a long line of folks choosing to become educators.  Instead, you chose to teach because you decided to make a difference.

On my side of things as a teacher’s spouse, I believe you need to know that you make more of a difference than you know.  The excitement of the first several days will wear off rather quickly, but your enthusiasm in choosing to invest in the lives of students shouldn't plateau this week.  Even through your weariness in making sure that every demand asked of you is met with excellence, your motivation isn’t going to be found in test scores or the latest curriculum.  Your motivation is found in the sweet faces in your classroom.

Your unnoticed efforts are all made well worth it when a student truly knows how much you care for them.  The Lord has entrusted you with little lives to minister to through your teaching.  I am well aware of the laws that prevent you as Christ-believing teachers from overtly explaining why you teach and serve in the manner you do.  However, students are paying attention, and they see the difference of Christ in you.

Each student that enters your room has their own story.  We’d like to believe that each child you encounter is well loved and well cared for, but sadly we know that’s just not the case.  Your kind words of encouragement may be the only positive affirmation that a student hears.  Your belief in their ability to succeed could possibly be the only support that they receive.  

This school year will certainly come with its own set of challenges, but cling to this:  the Lord has given you each student, and even the difficult parents/guardians, because He trusts you with them.  He trusts you to stand in the gap for the students who have no one else to fight for them.  He trusts you to minister to the discouraged parents who are at their wits end.  He trusts you to reassure a student who has experienced more hardship than any child should that not all adults cause harm.  He trusts you to carry out your 180 days of the school year with excellence, because that’s what He has called you to do (Colossians 3:23).

When the demands of leadership and the school district seem to be too much because you just want to teach instead of spending valuable hours on paperwork, remember the reason you chose this profession: the students. 

Your attitude will shape their attitude about learning.  Your mission to love them and serve them through teaching has the ability to change their mindset.  Your investment in their lives will cause them to believe they are valuable, despite what they may be told outside of the four walls of your classroom.

It’s your classroom, and over this school year, your words and actions will determine the type of legacy it will leave in the lives of each student who enters.  I pray that you understand the difference you make stems from the difference the Christ has made in your life.

Here’s to a wonderful school year!

Monday, August 1, 2016


At a Night of Ministry with Kari Jobe & Christine Caine

Through each season of my life the Lord has been gracious enough to gift me with the presence of people who have influenced me for the better.  This is a story of one of those people.
After working as a pre-school teacher for a short time while I was living at an inner-city ministry, I did what I said I would never do: go to work for my alma mater.  It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy my time as a student at Belhaven University. I didn’t want to become an employee of the institution because so many graduates took that route, and ultimately I didn’t see it as part of my calling: ministry.

For those of you who know me well, you know that my journey to be in full time ministry has certainly been a winding road.  Through each job, the Lord has shown me the importance of understanding that even the simplest task can be ministry when we are willing to commit our ways fully to Him.  I could go on for a while about that lesson, but I won’t now.
I didn’t quite understand why the Lord had me go back to Belhaven to work in the admission office.  After much asking, He showed me.

Her name is Morganne.

I was in need of help from a work-study student and was in the process of interviewing new freshman students for the position.  I had no idea how to interview someone who was not that much younger than me, so of course my “interviews” simply became chats about life.  I wanted to know where they grew up, what they were interested in, and what they were passionate about.  After I spoke with a couple of students, I heard her in the lobby of the office.
When the receptionist told Morganne I that I was available right then I heard, “But I’m not dressed for an interview right now!  Are you sure?” in the best Wetumpka, Alabama drawl.

Morganne rounded the corner to come to my desk and immediately I noticed the massive arm sling and pillow like brace holding her shoulder in place.  “It’s from a tumbling accident.  I just had surgery… but I can do whatever you need me to do!”  Her enthusiasm was contagious, and we certainly needed more of it in the office.  She was a very determined freshman elementary education major and cheerleader. 
After we discussed her babysitting job experience, I just had an overwhelming peace in my spirit that the Lord sent her to me.  We talked more, and then I asked, “So, when can you start?”  After working out a schedule around her classes and cheer practice, it had been set.

Each afternoon Morganne would come help me with seemingly meaningless tasks.  But as she folded mail for me and complied supplies for admission packets, we were able to talk.  We talked a lot!  Many afternoons were simply spent with her sitting with me at my desk. 

In the beginning of her time with me as work-study, our conversations were about freshman boys (one in particular), her weekend plans with Sydney (the other one J), and how her classes were going.
As our friendship grew, the Lord continually showed me the importance in investing in Morganne’s life.  She has always been super cute, friendly, smart (gosh, don’t you hate that?), but I feared that others didn’t see what I saw in Morganne.  I wanted others to look past the cute exterior to see how much He planned to use her for the Kingdom.

After just a few short weeks of knowing her, I knew something great was going to transpire soon. But until then, I committed to chatting about cute clothes and cheer.
Then it happened.  There was a huge shift in her priorities and the Lord allowed me to witness it.  Belhaven and being in Jackson wasn’t about being popular or even well liked.  Morganne’s sole desire became simply to know God more intimately.  After we walked through her dating here and there, it always came back to the one guy she told me about when we first spoke.  Hamilton was the one.  She told me.  And let me just say, that when Morganne has something in mind, all systems are GO!  Her confidence in the Lord’s call on her life and on Hamilton’s was inspiring.  Rather than pursuing fleeting relationships, Morganne’s heart was only seeking the Lord.  When I would say, “Morganne, are you sure?  Have you asked God about this?  Y’all are such good friends.” Morganne would simply say, “Yep.  I just know I’m supposed to wait.  I’m going to be Mrs. Hamilton Harper.”  That same zeal encouraged me as Joseph and I first started dating. “Syd, this is a date!”  “Morganne, we are just going to dinner to catch up.  I want to hear about his summer in Africa.”  The next day I had to tell her she was right.

Nine months after Joseph and I started dating, we were married.  And my sweet Morganne and her best friend, Sydney, drove from Alabama to support us and help at the reception.  Morganne’s relentless encouragement towards us still means the world.  Sometimes “God things” don’t always make sense.  Morganne never questioned Joseph and me after we were engaged just eleven weeks after we started dating.  “When you know, you know, Syd!”
Morganne with me minutes before I walked down the aisle
As my time at Belhaven ended, I’m blessed to say that my relationship with Morganne didn’t.  We endured the effects of almost going into a GiGi’s Cupcake sugar coma together, and made time to hang out when we could.

Joseph and I have watched Morganne become a woman with purpose.  When she invited us to hear her share her testimony in front of her peers at church, I knew the mission of her life wasn’t simply to teach children and encourage others with her bubbly personality and her “everything happens for a reason” mentality.  Her life’s aim became influencing people for the purpose of showing them a better glimpse of the Kingdom of God.
Morganne has chosen joy despite difficult circumstances she has walked through.  That contagious joy overflowed to Joseph and me when we were walking through infertility, then our miscarriage.  She opened up her apartment to serve us and to love us well during those difficult days.  She’s prayed and warred in the heavenly places on our behalf.  She’s both laughed and cried with us when we needed it the most.  Through it all she has continually helped me refocus my perspective.
Celebrating at Morganne's wedding shower when I was VERY pregnant with Ada

Today as Morganne celebrates another birthday, I celebrate the gift she is to me and so many others.  I celebrate her willingness to confidently proclaim what the Lord has shown her.  I celebrate the courage she has to stand out.  And I celebrate the story the Lord has given her.
Morganne meeting Ada for the first time
Part of her story is that what she declared as a freshman student came to be.  I was honored and privileged to stand with her as she became Mrs. Hamilton Harper.  Their wedding ceremony was nothing short of glorious.  It was a true testament of my banner “at just the right time”.  Hamilton and Morganne are world-changers, a couple driven by the purpose of the Lord, and ones filled with an inspiring faith.
Oh, glorious day!
Just when we think the Lord has brought someone into our lives to minister to, He shows us that He brought them to us to change us. 
Morganne, you have taught me more about steadfast faith than you can ever know.  I never imagined that the Lord would allow our relationship to go so far beyond being a work-study student, but I am honored that it has.  You have reminded me of the importance of simply being kind to everyone.  You are a precious gift to me and my family.

Happy birthday, my dear!  You are so loved!

Celebrating the Harpers!