Looking closely

Collections. We all have them of various sorts – dolls, figurines, antiques, china, etc.  I collect Nativity scenes. Well, not intentionally. Years ago, Mother gave me our first nativity scene, the one she bought when I was a baby that she placed under the Christmas tree every year. Then, when I returned to teaching, she gave it to me to bring to my classroom and show the children around Christmas time. Ooooh, the children would gasp when they saw it the first time. I have one like this under our tree, some would say. More would say, what is that, as they would pick up one of the characters and look at it more closely.

About 18 years ago,  Mother and Daddy were on another cruise that took them to Russia. Mother found several stackable dolls and gave me a stackable doll nativity set. Oh, how I loved this quaint little set with all the small pieces. I would also take it to school to show the children, a little more cautious with it since it had such tiny pieces. The baby Jesus was noIMG_20131223_142038 bigger than a child’s finger!

On yet another trip to Israel, she brought home an olive wood carved nativity set that she used for awhile then passed on to me several years ago.


My son Philip gave me a beautiful nativity set for Christmas a few yeas ago and it sits on our coffee table in the den in front of everyone.



This year, I brought the old well-worn nativity set home from school for good. As I unfolded each piece from its sixty year old tissue paper and place it in the little stable, I held the pieces in my hand a little longer, staring at their faces. I hadn’t ever taken the time to do that – at least, not in a very long while. I got my camera and began taking pictures of the nativity scene on the mantle – up close pictures and after they were downloaded on the computer their faces were even more clear and almost alive.


I picked up Mary and held her for a long time. Dressed simply, as a young peasant girl, her eyes barely open, as if looking down at the baby in the manger. What was she thinking? Her long fingered hands draped across her chest. Can it be, she’s thinking, that this is truly the son of God, as told me by that angel  nine months ago? Oh, Jehovah, what a responsibility. I will need you to help me raise him. Look at how tiny he is! Yes, look. Take a long look at the faces of the figurines in the nativity set. What are they each thinking – this moment in time when a baby is born in a rude old stable in a crowded little obscure town to poor traveling peasants from a long ways away, on this untimely journey just to obey the foreign government. Because of an angel, a dream, a star, the folks in the stable got it. They each knew – Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and later the Wise Men had all been forewarned that they were about to witness a miracle, the fulfilling of a long awaited prophecy – the coming Messiah, who would save His people. So, perhaps what each were thinking was, “I am part of an historical event! How will God use a baby to save His people?” Joseph, now the protector of this baby – not his, was to get his directives from yet another dream; the shepherds were so excited that they told their families; the Wise Men received direction from a dream, and Mary. Mary kept all these events in her heart. She marveled at how God was moving in her midst, as she kept trusting.    IMG_20131223_155431

May we ponder, be alert for His directives in our lives, and trust. Keep trusting in this blessed Savior – the Lord Jesus Christ.  Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Now, go out with Joy and be led forth in His peace.

A change of heart

To all of you fellow teachers, especially those of you who teach multiple classes, such as elementary music or physical education: you know those classes that you can’t wait to see. You even go to your doorway and look down the hall expectantly. And then there’s that class that keeps you looking at the clock. Has it only been ten minutes??? With 35 long nearly impossible minutes to go? Then we can relate.

Here in my ninth year at this same inner city elementary school at the southern tip of a forward thinking district, I’ve had so many of those “I-can’t-wait-til-the-end-of-this-class-so-I-can-breathe” classes and yet, truly I had thought this year would be different. I thought that after stating and rehearsing the class policies/rules over and over the first few weeks of school and writing up several children for not adhering to the very basic rules, that I would not let a class get to me. Wrong. So wrong.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I was allowing a few trouble-makers in one or two particular classes to rule over my thoughts and control my day – did they know that’s what they were doing?  Finally, one day not too long ago, I was sitting somewhere, was it at my desk? And I decided to do an about face. Discipline notes to the parents were not working and neither were parent phone calls to these particular children. Their behavior was not improving and I was letting these few steal my joy and hinder the learning of the majority of the children in the class.

On the Thursday afternoon before spring break, I sat down at my desk with my class list binder and began making some phone calls. “Hello, Mrs. Smith? This is your child’s music teacher at _________Elementary. Do you have just a minute? I am calling to let you know that your child, ____________, is an EXCELLENT student in my class. It is a pleasure to teach him (or her). Thank you so much for the privilege of teaching your child music. Would you please let your child know that I called so she/he will know I made a “good call” to your home today. May you have a blessed day. Good bye.” After nine calls of that nature and hearing the parent’s heart absolutely melt over the phone, I knew I was on to a good thing.  From now until school was out, I would let those challenging classes know that at the end of that day I would be making “good parent phone calls” and writing down the names of those whom I had called so that they would know I knew those children were behaving and trying to learn something in music class and that IT WAS REWARDING TO OBEY THE CLASS RULES!

It’s Monday afternoon and I made nine new phone calls this afternoon to chldren’s parents of one particular class. I heard sighs and thank you’s over the phone. The next time I see this class I look forward to seeing how the children behave who’s parents DIDN’T receive a phone call………yet.

By the way, music learning took place all day today! And my heart was light as I left the building this afternoon – after Zumba class! Hopefully the rest of the school year and continuing this practice all the children in all the classes will choose to learn and have a good time in music! Time will tell.

It would be a pleasure to know what you think, even if you disagree.

Let’s keep in touch!