Praying for teachers in the new year

Parents, won’t you join me in praying for our teachers as they head back to school – whether in person or online. Here are some prayer requests from teachers across the country on how we can keep them encouraged.

Teachers, along with so many other frontline workers, have faced additional challenges and burdens beyond their “normal,” everyday ones due to COVID-19. As kids head back to school – either in person or online – let’s keep teachers in our prayers during this time.

I reached out to some teacher friends and family across the country to ask them how we can best pray for them as the school year resumes in the new year. 

These are just some of their prayer requests in their own words – I did very little editing. 

Won’t you please join me in praying for them? I know that they would appreciate it, and it’s our responsibility to encourage them according to 1 Timothy 2:1-2:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (NIV)

Prayer requests from teachers:

  • Health and stamina as we go into the second semester.
  • Wisdom about whether or not to get the vaccine. Teachers are in Round B and can start signing up. 
  • Stability and consistency for teachers and students. There just seems to be so many variables up in the air at any given point, and it invites a lot of doubt and worry. Just pray that God would give us peace and the comfort of His presence and protection.
  • Realistic expectations of ourselves and the students (even though we are in a pandemic we are still expected to administer tests.) The results are not going to be the same as previous years, and teachers can get easily defeated about the data/results.
  • Time management
  • Grace for self – teachers can spend 24/7 doing school work and still not get everything finished. We then feel guilty for taking the time for ourselves or for our family/friends. 
  • Creativity with our lessons and activities that keep students motivated, interested, and challenged.
  • Super smarts to learn so many new things at once as we continue to teach online. 
  • Perseverance and a good attitude to deal with all of the testing demands even in a pandemic.  
  • For God to make up the difference as I feel disconnected to the kids, especially online but even in person with so many rules in place.
  • Creativity and fresh perspectives to keep kids engaged in new ways since you can’t easily do groups or the many activities we are used to doing. 
  • To remind myself daily that God is with me and I need not fear. 
  • Love and compassion for our students as they are also struggling with the pandemic in their own way (fears, anger, depression, stress at home due to the pandemic).

If you are a teacher reading this, know that you are appreciated greatly, and you are making a difference even when it seems like you may not be! 

I’ll leave you with this quote from my favorite virtual teacher of all time – the Great Fred Rogers:

“Some days, doing ‘the best we can’ may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn’t perfect on any front – and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else.”

Let’s ignite 2021 with vision

As we welcome the gift of a new year, won’t you join me in doing a little self-reflection to help clarify what our vision for 2021 might be?

Yesterday, we closed the chapter on the past 365 days of a roller coaster ride (whew!) Today, we look ahead to the next 365 days of 2021. This morning, I woke up with eager anticipation, like a child on Christmas morning.

It might as well be Christmas for me. With the new year here, the presents I’m most looking forward to can’t be wrapped with a bow or sealed with Scotch tape. The presents I’m most looking forward to in 2021 are hugging friends again. Seeing the warm smiles of neighbors, teachers or even clerks at the grocery store without masks. Attending one of my daughters’ school performances or having lunch with them – in person.

There’s a lot to look forward to. It’s not only a new day, but a new year with all of the promise, dreams and vision of what 2021 may hold. This time of the year, I like to do a little self-reflection.

Download my free printable on fun and meaningful questions to guide you in clarifying a vision for 2021.

Why look back?

What does self-reflection look like, and why should we make time for it? Going over the past year and asking myself some thoughtful questions and writing down the answers allows me to process the past and welcome the future. Think of this exercise as therapy on paper. And after a year like 2020, therapy can be a good thing, right?

Thinking through some of these questions also gives me clarity, self-awareness, and a greater vision for things to come. 

Self-reflection also resets my mind and heart to enter the new year with a sense of hope and anticipation, leaving the past behind and looking forward to new beginnings. 

What is your vision for 2021? 

Did that question challenge you a bit – what is your vision? If you don’t know or don’t have one, that’s okay.

Vision is something I’ve overlooked most of my life. It’s one of those words that CEOs throw around a lot, and I never really understood its importance until recently. Up until the last decade of my life, when I started reading business books and listening to podcasts and TED Talks by influencers who addressed the topic in thoughtful and meaningful ways, I didn’t give much thought to what “vision” is.

Defining “vision”’s definition of “vision” is “the act or power of sensing with the eyes; sight.”

Other definitions I like include:

  • Something seen in a dream, trance, or ecstasy” (Merriam-Webster)
  • The ability to think about and plan for the future, using intelligence and imagination (MacMillan)
  • A mental image produced by the imagination (American Heritage)
  • A vivid mental image, especially a fanciful one of the future (Oxford)

My business coach and mentor, Benson Agbortogo, often quotes Habakkuk 2:2 on the importance of writing down vision in your life: “And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon the tables, that he may run that reads it.” – KJV

Without a written vision, he says, is like “driving aimlessly without a destination.”

So, won’t you join me in doing a little self-reflection as we start the new year so we know where we’re headed and don’t drive aimlessly?

To help answer the question – what is vision – here are some questions I have compiled to reflect on. My thanks to Marie Forleo, Michael Hyatt, Brooke Castillo, Benson Agbortogo, Tony Robbins and Joanna Gaines for providing inspiration for some of these questions.

Questions for self-reflection to clarify your vision

Grab your journal, a good pen and maybe a mug of your favorite hot beverage, and dive into some of these questions with me. If you don’t have a journal, here’s a free printable of the questions. I’d encourage you to print it out and write your answers down. Even if you don’t tackle the entire list, pick one or two that speak to you and make you think.

You’ll be that much closer to having your vision for 2021 as a result. 

Self-reflection questions:

  • List one to three lessons that 2020 has taught you?
  • What were you most proud of in 2020? 
  • What’s an obstacle you overcame last year?
  • What’s a mistake you made in 2020 that you don’t want to repeat in 2021?
  • Were there any game-changers in your life last year? If so, list them.
  • What was something surprising that happened as a result of the pandemic that was a positive blessing?
  • What is something that you missed doing or experiencing in 2020 that you’re looking forward to this year?
  • What is something good from 2020 that you want to carry into 2021?
  • What do you want to create, experience or achieve in 2021? (I like to think of this question in terms of family, faith, work, relationships, spiritual, health, hobbies, etc.)
  • In 2021, I want to do more of
  • In 2021, I want to do less of
  • In 2021, I am most looking forward to

Did you get through the entire list? Or were there just a few that caught your eye that you wanted to answer? Whatever you wrote, I want to congratulate you for giving yourself some meaningful time to reflect. I hope the questions were a fun exercise and gave you greater clarity for your vision for 2021. 

Don’t forget to save your answers and ask God to give you a vision for your life based on what you wrote. Then wait expectantly for what He will reveal. By saving your answers, you can refer back to them throughout the year to make sure your vision stays in focus.

Happy New Year!

Recycle Christmas Cards into Gift Tags

Don’t throw away those Christmas cards you have piling up! Recycle them in a new and fun way as gift tags.

What to do with all of those Christmas cards you received? Before you trash them, consider recycling them as gift tags for your presents next year.

The girls and I recently spent a couple of hours making tags that you see in the photo above, and it was so much fun! It’s such a kid-friendly activity and a creative way to spend some time together during winter break. It’s also a flexible craft in that you can keep it really simple for small hands or go all out for those more advanced crafters.

Gather your supplies

Here’s what we used for our gift tags. Your craft supply may look different from ours so just use what you have and improvise if you don’t have everything on this list. I’ve listed our items as a guide.

  • Christmas cards – the traditional kind with no family photos.
  • Good pair(s) of scissors – get multiples ready as other members of your family will want to join you as they see how much fun you’re having!
  • A hole punch or two (we had a couple on hand).
  • Paper cutters – These are completely optional but they do make cutting straight lines easier because I am straight-line challenged! We also had a rounded corners tool (see photo below) that gives your tags a nice look and finish. Note to moms of littles: My kids are older and are able to use these tools on their own so please modify this craft to suit your kids’ ages and craft level.
  • Your adhesive of choice – Glue stick, rubber cement, double-sided or scotch tape, etc.
  • Card embellishments – We used Christmas stamps and washi tape but you could use stickers, glitter, scrapbooking leftovers. Use your imagination and get creative!
  • Items for tracing to make gift-tag shapes – we used drinking glasses or even rectangular-shaped Christmas stamps to make our card cut-outs. And some pencils, pens or fine-point Sharpie markers for tracing.

Christmas cards …

Here’s a pile of Christmas cards that we received this year. What I like about this craft is that even the simplest, Dollar-store card can be transformed into a sensational gift tag!

Good pair of scissors (or two or three!)

A pair of scissors for each family member is recommended! And in case you’re wondering, yes, those are kitchen shears – which work great, by the way! Parent supervision is always advised when you’re doing crafts with sharp objects.

Hole punch and paper cutters

Since some Christmas cards are pretty thick, it takes some “mom muscle” at times to punch out holes for the tags! The other tool you see here is my most favorite card-making tool – a rounded-corner punch – for those times when a straight edge just won’t do.

Adhesives …

Christmas tags
We used double-sided tape, a glue stick and even colorful washi tape as adhesives. Glitter glue would also be fun (if you look past the messy part!) Rubber cement also works great, along with spray-on adhesive.

Tag embellishments

embellish gift tags with stamps & washi tape
These are just a few of the items we used to embellish or dress up our gift tags. Washi tape gives you some fun options, and it comes in handy when you want to cover up something on a card.

Items for tracing to cut out shapes

What worked well for us is sticking to simple shapes such as circles, rectangles or even triangles since they’re shaped like a Christmas tree. Look at other gift tags you have for ideas and inspiration!

Tutorial for making a gift tag

Play around with different ribbon types for different looks

Bonus tip: Save your cards to pray for your family, friends!

A friend of mine in a business networking group I belong to passed along this idea about Christmas cards, and it was too good not to share. His family saves their Christmas cards each year and has them out all year long. Each night when they do their prayers, they pull out a Christmas card and pray for that family. What a neat way to encourage other families by praying for them all throughout the year. Put the cards in a place you see often so you don’t forget. Won’t you join me in starting this new prayer tradition for the New Year?

Songs for the Christmas Season: Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne

The story behind this lesser known Christmas hymn, Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne, is so rich. It’s written by Emily Elliott (1836-1897), the niece of Charlotte Elliott, author of the hymn, Just as I am. She was a devoted worker of rescue missions and Sunday Schools in Brighton, England. She wrote the song for the children’s choir at her father’s church there. She wanted to teach children the Biblical truths behind the advent season, and the song was based on the verse from Luke 2:7, “but there was no room for them in the inn.”

As a believer reflecting on the truths of the nativity season, I am humbled to think that the King of all Kings left His Royal throne to come as a lowly babe in a manger because God loved us that much.

The refrain is beautiful: “O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, There is room in my heart for Thee!” In listening to this song, I’m always convicted to ask, “Am I making room in my heart, my life, for the King during the hustle and bustle of Christmas?” As a wife and mother and “Martha” type, I struggle with that. But reflecting on this hymn, and the true meaning of the season, I strive to be like “Mary,” who sat at the Lord’s feet.

Listen to this amazing rendition of the hymn by the great George Beverly Shea.

I’m getting the history of these Christmas hymns from 101 Hymn Stories by Kenneth Osbeck. If you are interested in studying about the “story behind the hymn,” definitely check out this inspirational resource!

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

In the spirit of the season, I thought it’d be neat to look at the history behind some of the Christmas songs and hymns that we’ve all come to love and enjoy. Throughout this month, I’m going to pick out a few songs and tell you about their history and share a link to the song.

By the way, I’m getting the history of the hymns from 101 Hymn Stories by Kenneth Osbeck. If you are interested in studying about the “story behind the hymn,” definitely check out this inspirational resource!

Here goes the first one Christmas carol … It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.

This was a classic Christmas hymn that I grew up singing in the Mennonite and Baptist church that our family attended in Topeka. It was written by William Sears, a Unitarian minister in Massachusetts, and was first published in 1849 right after the end of the Mexican-American War. Musical scholars note that the hymn’s third stanza refers to “man at war with man hears not” may refer to the Mexican-American War and also the social strife of the impending American Civil War. This is a five-stanza hymn and while I am mostly just familiar with the first stanza the words from the third stanza ring true to me, “O hush the noise, ye men of strife, And hear the angels sing.”

There is so much worldly noise around us, but at Christmas, focusing on the message and beauty of Christ and the angels’ pronouncement of the newborn King, helps me drown out the “woes of sin and strife” and focus on the good. Love this version by Norah Jones.

Tell me, how do you focus on the true meaning amidst the hustle and bustle of this season?

Proverb a Day: Day 31


Here we are at Proverbs 31. I wish I could quote the entire Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character. Today’s Proverbs are dedicated to the two greatest women I have known in my life who are both in heaven: My grandmother, Ruth, and my mom, Jaya. My heart misses them every day yet their examples of faith and values found in this rich chapter guide me daily, hourly and even minute by minute sometimes. I am eternally grateful for their teaching, example and most of all, love.