With Grace, Gratitude, and Growth….a Season to be Truly Thankful For
By Jessica Cabeen
‘May tired’…in October. That could describe educators across the United States this year. We have pivoted, innovated, and changed course more times than we can count. We are lifting up our families who are struggling during this time, supporting our students of color in knowing how truly loved and cared for they are, and standing with our fellow educators navigating COVID along with the fear of what might come next. ‘May tired’ in October could be an understatement.
So what is there to be thankful for?
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
God has provided this season and these circumstances for a pending harvest we are invited to attend. And yes while we are all tired, we know God is guiding every step of this journey in his perfect timing, so for now we can prepare to reap a harvest from grace, gratitude, and growth.
Grace is a willingness to learn something every day and forgive yourself along the way. However the exhaustion we are feeling may make us weary in circumstances we could normally weather. When a student forgets to log on for distance learning do you criticize and correct right away or take time to check in to make sure the student is okay? When a parent abruptly sends you an email with CAPITAL LETTERS AND BOLD FONT, do you reply back sharply or take the time to make a personal phone call to listen with care and real concern? Grace for others in this season cultivates the soil for the harvest God is preparing us for. How can you spread grace to those you serve?
What can you be grateful for in this season? For me, I am grateful for the time we have in a hybrid school model. While other school districts are serving students in person, and yet others fully online, our district allows students 7-12th grade two days to come in person (and three online). Every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday you will find me welcoming students into the school from parent drop off. It could be snowing in October (and it did), or raining sideways in November—rain or shine,with a mask on, there I am smiling, waving and grateful for each day God has given me to greet the students and families I serve. How often do you stop and reflect on what you can be grateful for in this season? Try to write down your gratitude each day or share with your family during evening meals. What you cultivate now can bloom and grow in this unusual season.
Social distancing requires six feet of physical distance between each other, it doesn’t mean we can’t be spiritually connected and grow in God’s love for us in this season. I am grateful in this season that our church has reopened for in-person services. That means I can serve our church as the once-a-month drummer who hides in the drum cage serving the Lord by hitting the snare drum and rolling the cymbal. Hiding in that cage also allows me to fully experience the service, sometimes I sing (trust me there is a reason there is no mic in the drum cage) and sometimes I cry. In this season God gives us the opportunity to fully experience our emotions and to feel his presence around us through His word, His works, and His music.
As we approach the holiday season, quarantine and isolations may mean many of us won’t be “Home for Christmas” but staying at home for the health and safety of our loved ones. This gives us a gift of rest and white space. Instead of stressing about travel plans, we have time to be present with our immediate family during the Advent and Christmas season. While we could binge-watch Hallmark Movies and episodes of shows on Netflix, we could also spend more time reading the Gospel and engaging with our family—remote off and phone put away.
So yes this school year has provided so many challenges, loss, frustration, and sadness. But with grace and gratitude, we can all grow a little closer to God this holiday season.
Jessica is currently a middle school principal in Minnesota. In 2017 she was awarded the Minnesota National Distinguished Principal. Jessica is the author of Hacking Early Learning, Lead with Grace, Unconventional Leadership, and co-authored Balance Like A Pirate. When not at bus duty or checking in with students and teachers in classrooms and the hallways she speaks at schools, districts and conferences about leadership, learning, and how to balance everything in-between.