An Open Letter To My Students

Sunday, June 9, 2019

An Open Letter To My Students:

Two more days. That’s all we have left. Two more days that you’ll bound through my door, maybe popping over to my desk to share something before you even put your bookbag down.  Two more days that I’ll remind you to be quiet after the bell rings. Two more days to read and work math problems together. Two more days that you’ll cut in front of each other lining up for lunch, and I’ll move someone to the back of the line. Two more days to learn more about each other, to talk and to argue, to listen and to laugh. One more day when I’ll say, “See you tomorrow,” and then the next day, our time together will be done.

We have two more days that I probably would have taken for granted before. This school year, for all the experiences that have crept by, slowly and sometimes painfully, this last day of school has come way too fast. There was so much more that I wanted to share with you—strategies we haven’t explored, books we didn’t read, discussions we haven’t delved into, lessons we haven’t yet learned. This year, I’m left feeling (knowing) I haven’t done enough.

When the accident happened, that first week in the hospital I didn’t cry much, if at all. It took too much energy and it hurt a lot to move, so I just did what I had to do. Crying wasn’t a must, so it didn’t get done. But the last couple of days there, when the therapists and doctors came by more often, when they started talking about home and my prognosis and the future, I kept asking, “How long until I can go back to school?” I didn’t like the answer, so I asked again and again. “Weeks.” “Months.” “You don’t plan to go back this school year, do you?” I was shocked. I was indignant. I was in denial. And that was when I finally cried.        

I cried because I was afraid you couldn’t make it that long without me. I would have said I was crying for you, but really, I was crying for me. I cried because I love being your teacher, and while I was so grateful for your substitute teachers, I was sad it wouldn’t be me there to teach you. I cried because I missed you, and because there is nowhere I’d rather be each day than with you. Then, I didn’t know when (if at all) I’d be back at school, and I hated that feeling.

The bright side was that we’d already had one-third of the school year together. You knew my expectations, you knew how to run our classroom, and you stepped up and helped the teachers who filled in for me while I was gone. You picked up where I left off, running your own morning meetings, working so hard in all your subjects, trying to behave and get along with each other, all the while wearing little purple ribbons, a reminder that my heart was right there with you. You took field trips, hoped for (and enjoyed) snow days, performed in our holiday play, and exchanged Valentine’s cards, all the while wondering when I’d be back. I was wondering too!

I was doing more than wondering though. I was working hard, not only writing lesson plans, grading your work, and answering your weekly letters, but doing exercises every day, determined to be back as soon as possible. You ended up having 64 school days without me—one-third of the school year with those ladies who stepped up and filled my shoes, and you made both them and me proud. Because of what happened to US, you learned more than reading and math this year; you learned life lessons. You learned that sometimes bad things happen that are out of our control, and it’s up to us to make the best of difficult situations. WE learned patience, perseverance and perspective.

I’ll never forget how it felt to finally be back with you in our classroom. For the last one-third of this school year, we’ve grown so much together. You are the reason I was able to come back as “soon” as I did; I knew you would help me, and you have so much.  You’ve jumped up to do anything I’ve needed you to do and you’ve been flexible when I’ve changed our routines to make things easier on me physically. Sometimes I’ve felt guilty about how well-behaved you’ve been since I’ve been back—this job isn’t supposed to be easy, and you’ve made it so easy for me. You’ve cheered me on, telling me not to be embarrassed about my limp and encouraging me as it’s starting to improve. Most of all, from the beginning, you’ve given me a reason to want to get better each day. 

I hope none of us ever have another school year quite like this one, but I also hope none of us ever forget what we’ve felt and learned going through this together. Because of that fall afternoon when I said, “See you tomorrow!” and didn’t see you until almost four months later, we know that we can never take a single day of our lives for granted. Whether or not you remember anything else from this school year, I hope that lesson will stick with you forever. 

For now, we’ve got two more days. Let’s make the most of them!

Love always, 
Mrs. Jones


He Loves You

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

“He loves you, He loves you, He loves you.”

My pastor has developed a habit (intentionally no doubt) of closing sermons with this repetitive chorus. I imagine he started saying it long before I truly noticed, but more recently, I feel the redeeming power of those words deep in my soul. It’s not that I didn’t know that truth before, both in my head and in my heart. It’s just that I hadn’t experienced it quite so emphatically.

Six months ago tonight, I came within arm’s reach of losing my life. Every single day, I think of the other person who did, unfortunately, lose her life in that dark, terrifying moment, and I pray for the two little lives that were also miraculously spared. I’ll always wonder why it had to happen the way it did, even while the next thought echoes in my head: why not? Each of us are constantly one decision, (good or bad), one turn (left or right), one second (faster or slower) away from finding ourselves in a similar situation. 

For now, the effects of that night are still outwardly obvious with the limp in each step I take. But long before the last six months, I’ve wrestled with those same questions- “why? why not?”– for a less visible reason. While the injuries sustained in the car accident are the most intense physical pain I’ve ever felt, it doesn’t compare with the emotional pain I’ve felt due to not being able to have children. Sunday was Mother’s Day though and I found, as I suspected I might, that it didn’t hurt quite like it used to. 

The last six months I’ve gained new perspective in a lot of areas, and this is one of them. For years, I’d wrestled with the idea that God withheld the blessing of children from us. I’ve often said that my faith made our infertility harder to understand rather than easier. I absolutely knew God loved me, so it was hard for me to understand why He wouldn’t give me this desire of my heart. As months turned into years that eventually neared a decade, it was easy to silently wonder whether He loved me at all, though that went against everything I believed. 

We’ve all questioned whether or not God hears our prayers. We’ve doubted His provision and tried to control our own fate. Each of us has wondered if this life has purpose and sometimes, in the darkest moments, if God sees us at all. Let me calm each fear for you: He hears your prayers. He will provide and He has everything under control. He has a clear purpose for your life, and His eyes are set on you always, most fixed in those moments you need Him most.

You don’t survive a situation like I found myself in six months ago tonight with any doubt in your mind that God has a plan. While my steps have been wobbly since that night, my faith has never wavered less. Whatever thorn Satan uses to cause you to doubt God’s love, recognize it for just that: a tool of the deceiver. 

Learn from my mistakes. It shouldn’t take an earsplitting, heart-wrenching crash for us to hear the quiet, affirming truth God whispers: He loves you. He loves you. He loves you.