“We Believe”—Travis Ryan, Richie Fike, Matt Hooper
Usually it’s an exciting time in my life. I set new goals for improvement; adjust/tweak my instructional methods and curriculum; and, I see that my professional space (classroom) is physically prepared for a brand new school year. To be certain, I still did that this year, but not with the same vigor, verve, and vivacity of previous years.
Preparing my classroom space before school.
“In this time of desperation; When all we know is doubt and fear.”
Perhaps, I was becoming burned out, I secretly wondered to myself. Maybe 30 years in one career is a long enough time span for any one person. Possibly, it was my age; after all, I am not that wide-eyed-fresh-out-of college-21-year-old teacher beginning her career at a rural Kentucky high school. Then again, that grey cloud of ambiguity might have had a great deal to do with the fact that my only daughter, the lovely being with whom my husband, John, and I have spent the last 18 years nurturing, protecting, as well as providing, was leaving us two weeks into our new school year (John is also a teacher.) and beginning her own journey as an adult in college.
“There is only one Foundation: We believe . . .we believe.”
Nonetheless, I plodded through the professional motions well enough. I prepared for the new school year, as I always do, while simultaneously helping my daughter prime, plan, and pack for Bethany College. I juggled late July and early August days with tutoring students, tackling my classroom/curriculum for the new school year, and trekking repeatedly along US Route 60 stores with my daughter and her ever growing “gotta-get-this-for-college list.” All the while, the shadow clouds of uncertainty grew dark and dense, swirling alternately across my mind, heart, and soul like Rorschach inkblots.
The ever-growing list of “gotta-have-this-for-college” was real.
“In this broken generation . . .When all is dark, You can help us . . .see.”
Normally, during the weeks leading up to the start of a new school year, I experience nightmares filled with ridiculous scenarios. For example, in one frequently occurring dream, I’m assigned to teach Kindergarten students again. I walk into a classroom that was once the gym, and see that it is filled with 60 five-year olds that I am expected to teach with no help in sight. Then, there is the dream in which I am assigned to teach high school students. My class is an old boiler room filled with 45 hormonal teen bodies that were kicked out of other schools; however, I am told, “I can handle them, because I have good discipline.”
This year, however, there were no back-to-school nightmares; instead, my sleep was interrupted with numerous panic attacks throughout the night. Each time, I would wake in a fright with my heart hammering heavily, my mind randomly racing, and perspiration penetrating my nightclothes and sheets. What was wrong with me?
“There is only one Salvation: We believe . . .we believe.”
On the first day of school with students, I woke at my normal 4:00 am school day wake-up time; and by 4:50, I was headed toward a local gym with John for a cardio session on the elliptical machine. As I entered the facility, I could hear music blaring. Nothing unusual about that; and I was just about to insert my ear buds in order to listen, instead, to an audible book, when I recognized the song, “We Believe,” as performed by the Newsboys. Chills ran up my arms, in spite of the warm temperature outside.
“We believe in God the Father. We believe in Jesus Christ. We believe in the Holy Spirit . . .and He’s given us new Life.”
Later that morning, I knew that I would be attending mass with all of the students of our school. “We Believe” is a song that we often sing during this school-wide church service. Was this Divine Providence trying to communicate some hidden message to me, I wondered, as I began pedaling the elliptical, listening to the song?
“And in our weakness and temptations . . .We believe . . .we believe.”
The ideal ending would be to write that, later, during mass, I sang along to this same song with my students, while simultaneously, a lightening bolt of realization zapped my heart and head; thus, making all right in Stephanie’s world. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always provide perfect endings. Instead, mass occurred without the Newsboys’ song, the school year began, and the cloud of vagueness persisted–though I was greatly cheered, or at the very least, distracted– by time spent with my students and the amazing staff with whom I work.
Spending time with SJCS students and staff during solar eclipse of August 2017.
“Let the lost be found and the dead be raised. In the here and now, let love invade.”
Two weeks later, we moved our daughter to Bethany College; and with that life-change, a bit of my mom-heart broke. I was entering a new life phase, and I had a choice. I could wallow in my sadness, ignoring the natural progression of life; or, I could embrace the fact that John and I did exactly what we were supposed to do . . .give our daughter roots, then give her wings.”
“Now we know Your love will never fail: We believe . . . we believe . . .”
This past Friday, I sat in mass with all of the K-8 students of St. Joseph Catholic School. The sun was glinting through the stained glass, and Father Dean stated to all, “Did you know that you are uniquely made by God?” Why those specific words should get me, I do not know, but they did.
A few of the students who attended mass with me on that Friday.
I did not hear anything else he said (Sorry, Father Dean.) because I became overwhelmed with emotion. I am more than just a mom. I am a teacher. I am writer. I am daughter. I am a wife. I am a sister, an aunt, a friend, a co-worker; and, I AM A CHILD of GOD. WOW! I have an opportunity to make a difference, not just in my daughter’s life, but also in the life of all others with whom I encounter, spend time, and/or share my writings.
“So let our faith be more than anthems—Greater than the songs we sing.”
Later, during this service, the fourth mass of the school year, we finally sang, “We believe;” and, I was reminded, I believe.