I’ve been busy thinking these last few days as I’m leaving Mexico about why God called me to Mexico. In the whole scale of things, it seems a little random. I had no doubt before I came that God was calling me here, and now I have no doubt that this trip was necessary for me to become the person that God is calling me to be.

One of the biggest reasons that I think God called me here was for my class. They would have grown and matured just fine without me, but apparently God wanted to use me in some way in their lives, and He has. I’m not sure how they will remember me years down the line, but I hope they remember how much they have grown this year and the things that they learned uniquely from getting to know me.

The other reason why I was called here was for my own growth. This class always had their own thoughts and comments, and those conversations turned into friendships that have sharpened me like Proverbs 27:17 refers to, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”

The theme that God has continually been teaching me about this year has been grace and love. There have been chunks of my life that I have shied away from those concepts, not because I didn’t believe in them but rather because I did not understand them and was afraid I would misuse them.

For dress up day we dressed up like the characters
in the move "Inside Out". We had to add some extra
emotions since there were 8 kids!
It is hard for me to describe how much I have loved my students this year. There were many sleepless nights, nightmares, prayers, and conversations. When I think back over how much energy I willingly, purposefully poured into each one of my students to encourage growth and success, I start realizing how God loves us as our Teacher. He is not idly sitting on His thrown, haphazardly giving us life lessons, and then ready and waiting to fail us with each test in life. The Bible says that Jesus is praying for us. God sacrificed His Son in order to help us pass. The tests are open book tests with the Bible, and we get as many retakes as we need. I had never really thought about how important my success was to Jesus, or how much time and effort He willingly gives, until I felt that way about my own students.

Beyond love, this class was the perfect class for me to start understanding grace better. Not that I’m implying anything about their behavior, but I never once had a boring day with this group. Even scholastically, after teaching a thought multiple times in a row in different ways, I thought things like, “Why on earth are they not understanding this concept???” At that point I was faced with a decision. Do I get frustrated with their lack of understanding, throw my hands in the air, and say, “Time is up guys. You had your chance to understand this. Now you’ll just have to bring the book home tonight and figure it out on your own. Test is tomorrow whether you’re ready or not.” Or…do I throw my plans out the window and spend time where it needs to be spent and show grace by giving more and more opportunities to learn the subject.

Strict schedules, plans, and opinions have no room for grace. Before this year, I was all about strict schedules, plans, and opinions. People are all different, and sometimes we need to change ourselves in order to help someone else change. For this class, I had to sacrifice just about everything in order to really invest in them: my privacy, my time, my heart, my plans, my opinion, my phone number.

Grace is not a small thing. It isn’t just forgiving someone when asked. It is seeing faults, ugliness, and dirt in people and yet still choosing to love them, help them, and serve them. It is backing down when someone needs to win an argument, even if their argument is based on irrational, hormone-caused reasoning.

I have needed a lot of grace from God, and I still do. I have held a very legalistic mindset for years to the point where I thought things like, “God gives me grace because at least I’m working to fix my problems.” That is not Biblical at all, and it doesn’t make sense. The whole point of grace is to cover the things we don’t work on. Jesus did not come to die just for the hard worker types. He came and died for everyone, including the lazy, weak people too. As a teacher I can understand this better because I am SO proud of my students who thrived and worked so hard on succeeding and doing their best. But I equally loved, worked with, helped, reached out to, and prayed for the students who did not really want to work on anything that I wanted them to work on. They still passed. I love them and am so proud of their accomplishments that they did do, even though there were things they could have worked on harder.

This is why legalism doesn’t make sense to me. If someone is not working on some area of their life that should be worked on, avoiding them helps no one involved. Joining in with them helps no one involved either. Trying to beat them into submission also helps no one involved. The only thing that can make a difference is fully loving them, supporting them, talking honestly with them, praying for them, and being present to help them whenever they need it. I’m thankful that Jesus’ death covers our weakness. I’m thankful that He is my teacher and loves me. I’m thankful that His goal for me at the end of class (life) is to be close to Him and in love with Him and not perfection, because I would have already failed.

Am I happy to go home? Yes. I get so excited every time I think about being back in Maine, with forests, lakes, my car, and my family (and cat). Have I cried over leaving my kids here? Yes. There is nothing that makes me feel so lonely as saying goodbye to the people that have been the reason for life over the past school year. Part of my personal growth has been learning to put complete faith in God’s plan for my life, including becoming thankful for difficult goodbyes. I love whomever I’m with fully, which will make goodbyes hard no matter where I go.


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