This year my one little word was heart. I started off pretty strongly attached to this word, seeking for ways to focus on the "heart of the matter," what my heart desires, and healthy habits for strong heart. Then, somewhere in the summer, I sort of lost track of things and have only recently been trying to pick up the pieces.
Don't get me wrong, heart has been there the whole time, I just wasn't always paying attention or documenting its presence.
It was there as I handed over one job to pick up the next.
It was there when we performed at the aviation museum.
It was there as we ran our first half marathon.
It was there when we visited the place where we met & grew into the people we are.
It was there when I we greeted our new nephew.
It was there when we surprised each other with early Christmas gifts.
It was there as we pulled the smoking car safely to the side of the road and through many more moments and interactions during the year.
The last few weeks I have been striving to finish strong and to bring back the intentionality of the beginning of the year.
Amongst many heart filling moments were 16 first graders. I started the day with a project for my students to make a sock baby Jesus. That sounds strange when I read it back, but it is a simple project intended to help them remember the true meaning of Christmas; Jesus' birthday. I wasn't sure how interested they would be but I dove in anyways. Heading into the project, I never could have imagined that my students would take such an interest! From the get go they were excited to jump in. After a few students finished their babies, they were asking to read to their babies and to make a manger and pretty soon students were assigning roles so they could reenact the Christmas story. The boys were gently carrying their babies around the room (walking toward nothing in particular) asking me if they were supporting the heads enough. I heard one student tell his neighbor about how he finally got his baby to settle down and stop fussing and that Jesus was now peacefully sleeping.
I was amazed. My first reaction was shock, then laughter, and then gratitude. My first graders were actually being 6 and 7 year olds! So often they seem to be 6 going on preteen, but yesterday they were kids. They were experiencing the Christmas story in the best way they could. They were showing care, kindness, compassion and love. They were showing me their hearts.
My heart was so full as I watched them interact with one another and practice skills that we need in our world:
Patience - as they waited their turn
Gentleness - as they cradled their babies
Compassion - as they brainstormed ways to create a soft manger for the babies to sleep in during recess
Pride in their work - as they took their babies to show to our 6th grade buddies
Responsibility - as they worked to support baby Jesus' head and care for their babies
I am so glad we ended our week on this note. Going into Christmas break I pray that I can continue to embrace my one little word: heart. I pray that I can remember my students as they carefully laid their babies into he makeshift manger, filled with torn yellow paper for hay. I pray that I can intentionally create more opportunities for them to practice these important skills that our world needs more of.
May your heart be filled with the joy and peace of our Lord and may the love that a first graders has for their sock baby Jesus inspire you this Christmas Season.