Bethany Jones has taught in elementary school in Frisco Independent School District for 15 years and was chosen as the Texas PTA Elementary Teacher of the Year for 2019-2020. Together, with her husband, she is raising three sons, ages 11, 8 and 4, so she will be navigating children through middle school, elementary and preschool during this unpredictable school year. In this article, Bethany offers encouragement to parents as they consider the options for their childrens' education during a pandemic.
Imagine watching your children playing in the sand. They have worked hard to build an elaborate sand castle that would make anyone proud. Just as they settle into the routine of enjoying their work, a huge wave overtakes the grainy buildings and leaves mounds at their feet. They look to you in shock, frustration and sadness. You comfort them and reassure them because you know this one obstacle will not dictate their lives, their future.
Now imagine that damaged work of sand is your life. That has certainly been what the majority of 2020 has felt like, at least for myself. I have worked hard, dedicated myself to family, prayed ardently to the Lord and built a life I enjoy. I have been an elementary school teacher for the past 15 years, married my best friend and had three amazing sons.
As a careful planner, I thought I was prepared for life’s tides. The uncertainty of this year knocked me off my feet, thrashing my routine and leaving me with a sinking feeling of worry. As if that wasn’t enough, I am faced with major questions floating in my head. How do I keep my family safe? Do I send my children back to school? Will virtual school work for them? How will I balance it all? What do I do about work? Are others judging me for my choices? Am I blowing things out of proportion? When will life just return to normal?
When I pause to examine worry I notice it is nothing more than the feeling of wanting to control what cannot be controlled. I have struggled with worry all my life, long before this current pandemic. I like to have a firm grasp on what is going on in my life. I have said I trust Christ, sang it at the top of my lungs and written it in pretty handwriting to post on the walls around me. If I’m honest, though, I struggle to trust my life to his care.
Underneath those layers of worry and want of control, is fear and even sadness. I am scared of simply remaining still and trusting God and those feelings make me feel downright inadequate. Shouldn’t my faith in God mean I won’t worry? Why is it so difficult for me to trust God to take care of me? Why can’t I just smile and say it will all be OK?
I’ve learned control is really an ebb and flow – what I can take charge of and what I must surrender to God. I may not be able to answer every question in my head right now, but what I do have control over is declaring to my Lord and to my family that I will have faith – that is confidence in God to protect me as I navigate the uncertainty.
Psalm 4:6-7 tells us “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I do not have control of the pandemic around me and that makes me anxious. Therefore, I need to turn to what I can control: Throwing my hands up to the Lord in “prayer and supplication.” Supplication – humbly asking repeatedly – softens our hearts if we allow it. This softness of our hearts brings a gift: peace, God’s perfect peace. It “surpasses all understanding.” My mind has to surrender control and allow my heart to trust God. (Cross reference Matthew 6:25-26, Matthew 6:34, John 14:1-3, John 14:2 and Ephesians 3:17-19 for a reminder. Our heads are stubborn, but God has repeated it for us many times so that it might sink in.)
Greater is his love than anything else we are facing. It is up to me not to turn my back to it, but, rather, embrace it. That I do have control over. I have also examined the “with thanksgiving” part. That does not mean I have to be happy and plaster a smile on my face during times of struggle. I may not be able to control my feelings of sadness, but I can remain grateful that God is with me and I am not alone.
As a mother, I can tell you making decisions for your children right now (or any time, actually) will be difficult. Do not dwell on the “Keeping Up with Joneses” mentality of what others are choosing to do. Pray and ask God for guidance repeatedly (prayer and supplication). As an educator, I can assure you no matter what the school year might bring, your children will have a teacher who is struggling also, but has made a commitment to look out for their welfare.
The school year will look different. It is OK to mourn the loss of normalcy. It is OK to long for the return of your normal routine. Use those feelings to turn to God repeatedly (prayer and supplication). It won’t guarantee the end of our longing for what we had before. Just like a parent comforts their children when the waves overtake their creations, God comforts us, because he is secure in the knowledge that he will keep us safe.
I’m reminded of the words from the hymn I sang growing up. “On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.” Use prayer and supplication to remind you of God’s firm foundation in your life, despite the sinking ground around you.
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Written by Bethany Jones, a third grade teacher in Frisco Independent School District. She currently resides in Frisco with her husband, Robert. Together they are raising three amazing sons (11, 8, and 4). Bethany views teaching as a mission rather than a job and believes parents trust her with the most precious part of their lives, which is not something she takes lightly.