Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Two Lessons Teaching Taught Me

I learned two of the most valuable lessons that teaching has to offer when I was a student teacher.  These lessons, both fortunately and unfortunately, were compliments of a student named Shay.

During my student teaching, I was a fragile and timid presence in the classroom.  I was constantly pushing back nerves that crept up from my stomach threatening to spew signs of weakness in my voice.  Back then I didn’t know how intuitive 9th graders are – that they could sense my insecurities a mile away and would use it to their advantage at the opportune time.  Luckily, my amazing mentor teacher and I had perfected the good-cop-bad-cop act by the middle of the semester, and things were looking up.  That is, until Shay enrolled in the class.

Shay was a beautiful girl minus a permanent scowl on her face and incessant eye-rolls.  She waltzed into the classroom, unapologetically demolishing the seating chart that I had crafted so meticulously.  You see, when one student sits in another’s assigned seat one of two things will likely happen: either an argument ensues, or he/she will sit in yet another student’s assigned seat.  Shay didn’t look like the type who talked about it without being about it, (that is, she appeared to be a skilled and ready fighter) so the domino affect ensued.  By the time the bell rang, over half of the class had seized the opportunity to sit next to their friends.  Any teacher knows that with some classes, this could mean chaos.  THIS was one of those classes.

Being the novice that I was, I continued on with my lesson without correcting the situation.  I had learned to pick my battles, and decided that giving Shay an available assigned seat as she walked in the following day would solve the problem.  Little did I know that I would have to personally remind every SINGLE student where his/her assigned seat was.  The whole class caught a serious case of amnesia for the rest of the week.  Block scheduling meant that I had to endure an hour and a half of the chaos, and endure I did.

There were random spurts of laughter and a paper-ball fight.  I distinctly remember a young man jumping up and doing the “Chicken Noodle Soup” dance as a group of girls laughed AT him though he assumed them to be laughing WITH him.  This all occurred while we “read aloud as a class.”  I was relieved when I could hand out a written assignment and just monitor. 

For a moment I thought that maybe Shay was on my side.  She seemed far less than amused by her new classmates as her arms remained folded and she rolled her eyes at the behavior she observed.  When we started individual work, I thought now was the time to make my move.  I approached her to explain that we had a seating chart, and that I understood that she didn’t know this, but could she please sit in (designated seat) tomorrow.  At that moment she tightened her scowl, looked up at me, and yelled how our school was “lame,” she’s not an “effing child,” and she should be able to sit where she pleases.  The whole class went silent for a second, then broke out into a mixture of laughter and cheering.  Following the grade-level policy, I asked her to leave and escorted her to the classroom across the hall where she would sit in the back.  This was the first in a list of behavior intervention steps, which I have since opined to be a way of making teachers carry the load of discipline so that administrators don’t have to.

The battle wasn’t over there.  I re-entered a class that was ten times more chaotic than before.  You see, according to the school rules I could not tell her to leave the classroom without escorting her somewhere.  I was discouraged from calling for back-up unless it was a dire situation (a new kid mouthing off was far from dire).  The way I saw it, I had only one choice – leave the classroom for one minute to deliver her to her destination.  That one minute was all it took to take the class to level ten.

I had given up all hope of refocusing the class, so at that point I tried incessantly to just get them to quiet down.  The last thing I needed was for someone to peek in from the hallway to witness my inability to control thirty fourteen-year-olds when I was seven WHOLE years their senior.  (Looking back, it seems ridiculous that I expected that of myself.)  That’s when I looked over at Shay’s desk and realized that she had left her classwork behind.  I knew that that meant that I had to scurry across the hall once more to deliver it to her.  You see, it was frowned upon to send a student out of class without any work.  That would be denying her the right to the academic instruction that she just interrupted.  It’s ironic how disciplining disruptive students ends up making them a priority over the entire class.

I grabbed her materials and ran across the hall.  I could tell that she had had words with that teacher based upon the look on his face, and I felt guilty.  I averted his eyes, and handed the work to her.  She then asked a question that, though accompanied by a disrespectful tone, made me pause and think.  How was she supposed to do the work when she wasn’t here to read the first half of the book?  This was her first day, after all.  I didn’t have time to go through what she had missed one-on-one.  She didn’t have time to catch up before the next assessment.  I have found myself in this dilemma many times over the years.  New students come at any given time and the teacher is expected to give them a crash course of what they missed.  The problem is that when you have as many as 150 students a year, you just don’t have time.  I told Shay to just start reading from page one, and forget about the assignment for today.  She responded by pushing the book to the corner of her desk and putting her head down.

The next two weeks were riddled with unpleasant encounters with Shay.  She always found a way to disrupt class and disrespect me in the process.  The worst part was that the class followed her lead – the boys wanted to be with her and the girls wanted to be like her.  I followed the chain of discipline: removal from class, lunch detentions, student-teacher conferences, and counselor referrals. Finally she reached the point where I had to write her a referral, and her contact information appeared in the computer just in time.  Although I hated calling parents more than anything else, I agreed with my mentor teacher that I should be the one to call.  When I finally accessed her file, I was shocked and saddened by what I saw.

I had only been a student teacher for a couple months, but I knew that when the point of contact was “guardian” as opposed to a designated relative that student was a foster child.  Foster children were not uncommon, but what stood out about Shay was that according to her file, she had had about 4 different guardians over the past year, and had even had a short stint back home with her biological mother.  She had bounced between schools, and I imagined that an extensive discipline record had followed her to each one.  I wondered what it must have felt like to be recycled so many times like an unwanted object.  I wondered if her behavior was a defense mechanism that she had picked up over time –maybe she had to reject a new environment before it rejected her.  Of course I considered that maybe she couldn’t stick with a foster home because of her disrespectful behavior, but something inside of me knew in that instant that weather one event or several, something in her past had turned an innocent child into the Shay that terrorized my classroom each day.  That’s when I learned lesson one: You never know the circumstances that made a student who she is. 

The call with her guardians was what I expected.  She was their newly-acquired foster child, they didn’t know what to do with her, and their voices were full of regret.

The next day I was determined to be a positive force in Shay’s life from that moment forward.  I greeted her with the biggest smile and “Good Morning!” when she walked through the door, but in true Shay fashion she was not amused.  I made sure to give her praise for the very little work that she actually attempted, and even conveniently ignored some of her off-task behavior.  When she had her typical moments of blatant and outright disrespect, I took time to talk to her on our walks across the hall.  You know you’re better than your behavior, right?  You’re too intelligent to be disruptive in class.  I went on this way for as long as she and I were in the classroom together.  I just could not forget all those foster homes every time I looked at her.  I told myself that in the end, kindness always wins.

Except, in the classroom, kindness doesn’t always win – at least not in the moment.  Shay seemed to view my sudden partiality toward her as an opportunity to get away with even more unpleasant behavior.  She’d take out her cell phone and make calls during instruction and excuse herself to the restroom without permission.  In the moments that I had to discipline her, she seemed even more irate than before.  I smiled at her, encouraged her, and praised her few good deeds to no end.  I told myself that this was why I became a teacher: to be the antithesis of the difficult environment from which many of my students came.

At this point in the na├»ve-teacher-saves-hood-kids movies that have become popular over time, things usually start looking up.  Just when the teacher’s frustration hits the limit, little Shay-Shay realizes and appreciates her teacher’s efforts, and rewards her with diligence in the classroom.  Unfortunately, the story between Shay and me just didn’t end that well.  She was the same Shay until the last day, and was happy to get rid of the “annoying” teacher, as she often labeled me.  She served many more detentions and suspensions before her last day of ninth grade.

Lesson number two was the hardest pill to swallow: every student isn’t going to blossom with a little TLC.  I remember one of my professors telling a room of future educators that the rough kids don’t always change for the better, and sometimes you’re just “happy to see them move on at the end of the year.”  She was half right, but I wasn’t happy to see Shay move on the same way that she came to me.  Time an experience has taught me better, but that year I felt that I had failed – because of ONE student.

Monday, May 4, 2015

On Lives and Mattering

I was sitting in my classroom shuffling through papers one afternoon as two of my male students sat atop desks recounting their weekend.  I was half listening to them, being sure to give a reassuring laugh or nod every minute or so.  About ten minutes into the conversation, though, they told a story that stopped me in my tracks.  The story went like this:

They were hanging out with friends in their neighborhood when a random police car pulled up.  Without hesitation, they ran.

They laughed much harder than they had in the last ten minutes as they imitated the unique running style of each friend that ran with them.  I stopped shuffling my papers.  Clearly, this story raised some questions in my mind.

Did the police chase after you?


Did they catch you?


Were you even breaking the law?

Nope, just hanging out!

Then why did you run?
That’s just what we do.  When you see the cops in our neighborhood, you run.

wouldn't be a good teacher if I didn't tell them the obvious: Don’t run!  It makes you look more suspicious!  They respectfully accepted my response, but I could tell that they weren’t convinced.  Had a police officer walked through my classroom door right that second, they would have immediately become tense with fear.  They were afraid of the police.

Given the recent instances of police brutality that made national news (those of Walter Scott and Freddie Gray), I can’t help but thank God that the police never caught up to them.  These two boys weren't perfect (who is?), but they were kids – just 14-year-olds who had witnessed and internalized police brutality throughout their short lives. 

My life as a black woman has taught me to respect the police, but proceed with caution.  I believe that my gender has helped me to regain a slight advantage in comparison to the disadvantage handed to me by my skin tone when it comes to interactions with the police.  I wonder what it must feel like to have a full grown fear of the police – to feel like one encounter gone wrong can end your life.  I wonder what it feels like to know that the identity born from your race and your gender is one that instills a fear in others that is powerful enough to convince them to use a lethal weapon “just in case” you are dangerous.  This is the plight of the black man.  This is the plight of black men like my husband who was pressed to the ground and handcuffed during a routine traffic stop simply because, according to the officer, he was big and black.

Our black men should not have to fear for their lives when they see an officer of the law.  My students should not be compelled to run from those who have sworn to protect and serve them.  Police brutality affects men and women of all races, but there is no question that black men are the most likely target.  My heart hurts when I see and hear people who I thought were friends searching high and low for a reason why the black male victims of police brutality deserved to die.  Neither selling loose cigarettes, running away, nor being a 12-year-old kid playing with a bb gun justify murder. 

For those of you who insist upon labeling the #blacklivesmatter movement as exclusive of other lives: Yes, all lives DO matter.  It’s time for black lives to matter too.

Food for thought:

John 7:24 - Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

1 John 2:9 - Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.

Mark 12:31 - The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Innocence and Fear: A Dangerous Combination

It was a sleepy Saturday morning as I waited outside of my elementary school to be picked up after the third-grade lock in.  Late as usual, my mother or my father (I can’t remember which) rolled up in our grey station wagon.  I dragged my overnight bag to the car, relieved to be in familiar company.  It was one of very few nights of my childhood that I spent without my sisters.  We drove away from the school exchanging small talk.

            -Did you have fun?
            -Yes. (Was it ever okay to say that you DIDN’T have fun?)
            -Did you stay up all night?

It wasn’t until we rolled up to the gas station that he or she (I’m leaning more toward my mom) broke the news to me.  “Lisa is missing,” my parent explained while searching my face for any sign of distress.  I don’t remember what I said in response, but I do remember feeling calm but confused.  What did it mean to be missing?  Probably that she had walked to the store without her mother’s permission, or stayed too late at a friend’s house.  Words like kidnap and murder certainly didn’t enter my mind.

She was four years my senior, and the girl I knew as the pretty and energetic grand-daughter of an elderly couple at my church.  We had spent the last year and a half singing in the children’s choir and playing in groups at church functions together.  The memory of her that always sticks out in my mind happened one day while all of the children were playing in the church yard.  The older kids were giving us younger kids piggy-back rides and swinging us around in circles as laughter exploded through the air.  Being a chubby kid, I knew I wasn’t invited to these games.  I retreated to the sidelines and watched, knowing that I was too heavy to take part in this sort of fun.  Suddenly, Lisa ran to me and grabbed me by both hands swinging me round and round until the entire outdoors swirled into one big spinning blob, and all I could focus on was her smiling face.  When she let me go and gave a laugh, I smiled; happy that for that instant somebody in the world saw me as the shy little girl that I was inside.

The thought of a living, breathing person who I had laughed and played with being missing was fathomless to me.

What I wish I had known at the time was that that car ride home was the only peaceful, quiet time that I would have to process the information.  The days following her disappearance felt like an eternity in my nine-year-old world.  Shortly after her disappearance, my sisters and I sat around the TV with our father watching the news as her picture was broadcast throughout all of the households in the small Indiana town.  “Coming up next, it’s every parent’s worst nightmare,” exclaimed the news caster as we looked on with wide eyes.  Once her story was over, we walked away from the television with a weird sense of excitement.  Seeing someone we knew on the news felt like being friends with a celebrity.  Our father sensed this, and scolded us saying that this “wasn’t a joke, it was serious.”  He was so right, but I still didn’t understand.

My mother joined a team of church, community, and family members in searching for Lisa over the next several days.  They swept through the corn fields, and even looked in garbage dumpsters (a detail that made me physically sick upon learning it).  They went door-to-door probing all of her friends for information – for the secrets that adolescent girls pass along in origami-shaped notes in school and whisper into the telephone receiver at night.  I thought that time would last forever.  Somehow, I had made it up in my mind that as long as Lisa was still missing, that meant she was alive and well.  Days that felt like an eternity later, I found out that I couldn’t be more wrong.  She was found in a trash bag outside of the home of her molester and murderer.  She was dead.

It was as if I had been holding Lisa’s hands through the search process spinning and spinning and not focusing on the world around me.  Suddenly, when I found out she was dead, she released my hands without warning.  When I focused my eyes and realized the gravity of the situation, I unknowingly embarked upon years of grief and fear.  An innocent child was brutally murdered.  That child happened to be someone I knew.  Her family would never see her again.  I would never see her again.  The pressure to understand and accept all of this ignited a terror within me that was far worse than the horror films that plagued my dreams at night. 

My parents made the decision to keep my sisters and me from attending Lisa’s funeral, and I am extremely grateful for that until this day.  We loaded a rented van and traveled to our hometown of Chicago the weekend of her funeral to tend to some family business.  Those days in Chicago were such a blessing.  I felt normal for that brief moment.

 Upon our return, I found myself in a conversation with Lisa’s aunt before church.  She was a small woman with a wild look in her eyes, but getting to know her revealed that a heart of gold was hiding behind those eyes.  “You didn’t make it to the funeral, huh?” she asked.  I explained that we had to travel to Chicago, feeling that it was my responsibility to provide an absence excuse for my entire family. 

You didn’t get to see her?  Do you want to see the body?

In that moment, I felt like that stupid cartoon character that makes you scream at the TV while he stands motionless and shocked as a fallen tree collapses onto his head.  Inside I was screaming “NOOOOOOOO!!!!,” but on the outside I just swallowed and stood in silence.  My lack of response must have meant yes to her, because she whipped out a picture of Lisa lying stiff in her casket and forced it in front of my eyes.  That terror that I felt when I learned of her death was nothing.  THIS was the worst, most horrifying moment of my life.

That moment deposited a spirit of fear in me that followed me for almost two decades.  My once playful, innocent fear of the dark became a full-blown phobia.  I saw that picture in my mind every time I closed my eyes, and even at times when my eyes were open.  I spent my nights sweating, crying, and begging God to make the sun come out so that my fear of death could stop tormenting me.  My parents were aware of my fear, but wrote it off as a typical child having a fear of the dark.  I never told them how I suffered at night.  As years went by, the thought of admitting that the death of a girl years ago was causing me such strife was embarrassing.

The fear that I felt at night even crept up on me during the daylight at times, and finding myself in a room alone became my worst nightmare.  I found myself adopting these strange habits, many of which I am still trying to break today.  I never turned off the lights when I was leaving a room.  When I was forced, I would walk out of the room leaving the door cracked, reach only my arm in to flick the switch, and move away without looking back into the darkness.  I hated sitting in chairs and couches with open space behind me for fear of the unknown sneaking to attack me from behind.  I ran up the stairs at home like my life depended upon it, convinced that an invisible force was chasing me.

As if the haunting memory of Lisa’s lifeless body wasn’t enough, there were the rumors and the whispers that crept across the town and into my ears.  There were moments when I was sitting at lunch at my elementary school, and I overheard other kids, who may or may not have known Lisa, discussing the gruesome details of her death that my parents tried so hard to shield me from.  I picked up on bits and pieces of conversations from adults who tried to speak in code, and wove them together into a grotesque and horrifying tapestry.  To this day, I don’t know how much of what I heard was true.  Honestly I have no desire to know – the things that I do know to be true are horrible enough standing alone.

As I grew older, my fear decreased but never went away.  I was relieved to finally have my own room in college so that I could sleep with the lights on without inconveniencing anyone.  Here I was heading into my twenties and still afraid of the dark.  I did have some days when I didn’t think about Lisa, but there were so many when I did.  By the time I graduated from college, I could go maybe a week without that picture of her lifeless body entering my mind, but never more.

When my husband and I initially moved in together, I had to explain my fear and rules to him.  As long as he was out of the room, the light would remain on.  I refused to walk up the stairs in the dark, and yes I’d rather pay a ridiculous electric bill than spend even one second in the dark.  He eventually adapted to my habits. Oddly, I felt it was better to tell him that I was “just afraid of the dark” than to explain to him how it all started.  I had told Lisa’s story to people a few times over the years, but I never told anyone how fear had consumed me daily as a result.   I didn’t plan to start with him.

Eventually as we were lying in bed one night, I had one of those vulnerable moments that you can only have with your spouse.  Before I knew it, my entire face was soaked in tears as I recounted the story of Lisa’s disappearance and death.  I told him about the terror of seeing the picture, and all the sleepless nights.  I told him how silly I felt for being over twenty and still unable to sleep at night because of someone who died when I was nine.  He hugged me and dried my tears, which I both expected and appreciated.  What I didn’t expect was what he told me in response.  There’s nothing wrong with you.  You were too young cope with murder.

All of those years, I had operated under the assumption that there was something wrong with me.  I felt that I was weak in a way that didn’t allow me to process death the way that everyone else did.  Those words from my husband were like music to my ears.  I still experienced the fear, but now that fear was coupled with anger.  I was a victim, and Satan had tormented me with fear for much of my life.  Finally, I knew that the source of my fear wasn’t me, and I got fed up.

I was sitting in church one Sunday when the pastor issued an altar call.  I knew in my spirit that God had plans to deliver me from my years of fear and anxiety stemming from Lisa’s death that day.  When the call was given, I boldly walked to the altar.  As I waited my turn for prayer, beads of nervous sweat escaped my forehead.  I prayed that the preacher wouldn’t ask me what I needed prayer for.  What would I say?  All of my options sounded pretty ridiculous to me:

                        I’m afraid of the dark.
                        A girl died when I was nine, and I never got over it.
                        I saw a picture of a dead person when I was little, and I can’t shake it

I was happy when the preacher came to me and immediately laid his hands on my head shouting fervent prayers without asking me a single question.  I lifted my hands as tears dripped from my eyes.  After about a minute or so, he stopped praying, looked me in my eye, and said “I don’t know what it was, but I just felt it leave!”  With a smile, he moved down the line and I returned to my seat.

Since that day, I have slept peacefully each night.  I still don’t care for dark rooms (not sure if that will ever go away), but when I think of Lisa I smile.  Despite the tragedy of her death, she is exactly where we all want to be: in heaven with our father.  One of these days when I cross the pearly gates, she will be there smiling and congratulating me for handing my fear over to God.

In closing, I would like to remind you all that our heavenly father loves us more than we could ever imagine.  It truly hurts his heart to see us suffer.  There is no pain too small, silly, or embarrassing to hand over to the kingdom of God.  I thank God for turning my trial into a testimony, but I’m here to hopefully prevent someone else from being consumed by fear.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Satan Tried to Steal my Dream.... BUT GOD!

I’m back from a hiatus that felt like forever!  I had to take a break to finish up my Masters degree, and as of yesterday evening I am DONE!  I have been missing my blog so much, and I have tons of things that I want to write about this summer.  I just can’t get back to the regular program without taking time to thank God for carrying me through this journey.

Some of you may be asking yourselves why I’m so overjoyed about obtaining a degree that has pretty much become commonplace these days.  Well, let me start with the harsh truth: I have been working on my Masters degree for four years.  FOUR. LONG. YEARS.  Academics have always been my area of strength, but somewhere between my Bachelors and Masters degrees life started to feel like a tornado, and my academics were no longer my top priority.  During those four years, I got married and had my first child.  I changed schools AND majors when I was nearing the end of a degree I was no longer interested in.  I taught full time - as many as 180 students every day!  I lost my uncle, my grandmother, a friend, and almost lost my marriage.  I came to so many road blocks that as recent as a few months ago, I was ready and willing to give up on my dream.  I had decided that ordinary was good enough.

Despite everything that I went through throughout this process, the absolute worst thing that I experienced was a separation from my heavenly father.  When I started my Masters degree, I had started my first big-girl job and joined a new church.  All of a sudden, I became a mother, wife, teacher, AND grad student, and I put God on the back burner.  At one point, I stopped going to church completely and very rarely spent time in prayer.  How and why I came back to Christ is a completely separate post for another day, but thank God I eventually did!

It was God who got me through the long nights and the guilt from neglecting my family.  Because he loves me so much, he sent my loved ones to be an extension of his grace and mercy during this time.  My sisters and my mother became Layla’s care-takers when I needed them to.  They combed her hair, fixed her dinner, and took her out for ice cream when I just needed a moment to relax.  My father labored over the upkeep of my house like it was his 9-5 job.  It wasn’t until I finally regained my peace of mind that I appreciated just how hard they worked to help me get to the finish line.  I couldn’t ask for a better family.

Of course, I saved the best for last!  My husband has been my absolute saving grace during this process.  He never issued a single complaint on the nights that I came home from work only to work until the wee hours and collapse into bed when he and Layla were fast asleep.  He had dinner ready when I came home, and he completely took over laundry duty.  He forced me to take naps when I had time, and celebrated every-single small victory like it was his own.  When I said I wanted to quit, he knew me and loved me enough to tell me that I was too strong to quit, that I would regret it immensely.  I’m not sure what I have done to earn a man who loves me as hard as he does, but I sure do thank God for him.

To every friend that continued to encourage me even when I started my fourth year of what should have been a two-year degree, I thank you SO much!  I am so rich in love that at times it amazes me. 

What I want to tell you all is that when God plants a dream in your spirit, he absolutely means for you to accomplish it!  It may take longer than you anticipated, and even you may not understand why.  Satan will try to attack you and steal your dream simply because he hates to see the will of God fulfilled through his children.  Ask God to help and guide you at every turn.  There is no request too small for God.  He loves you and he lives to see you cross the finish line!

Food for thought:

Phillipians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me

Have an issue or idea that you would like to see in a future blog?  Email me at whitney.p.gordon@gmail.com!  It’s confidential!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

An Open Letter to Tina Campbell

Some of you may know that I am a HUGE Mary Mary fan.  Becoming a fan of this dynamic duo was not a conscious decision.  One day I just literally found myself looking back over my life with Mary Mary as a backdrop.  I came to realize that in every season of my life, their music has encouraged me and watered my soul.  Some of who I am today, I can attribute to the fact that I was privileged to grow into a woman while watching two god-fearing, beautiful women navigate the entertainment industry. 

Many of you have heard the harsh truth that has the media abuzz: Tina Campbell, one half of Mary Mary, found out that her husband was unfaithful to her after years of wedded bliss.  After being touched by their music for so many years and even passing my love for them on to my young daughter, this is the way that I chose to attempt to return the favor and show my support during Tina’s time of need.  Below, you will find an open letter to Tina Campbell that I hope will bless everyone else as well!

Dear Tina,

I can only imagine what it must feel like to live out your deepest marital fear on a stage before the world.  When I first read the article in Ebony magazine, I was shocked and also worried.  I was worried that the world, which can be so cold, would pour salt in your fresh wounds.  I worried because as a wife, I know how our husbands can hurt us worse than anyone else.  Marriage is a covenant, and any threat of breaking that covenant hurts to the core.  Only a wife who was once scorned can truly know that feeling.

The weeks and months rolled by, and now the cameras of your hit show are documenting your journey to marital healing.  There were many people who supported you, and even some who cried for you.  Unfortunately, there were also some who used your vulnerability for their entertainment.  People discussed and speculated over coffee, lunch, and even drinks about the few details for which you exercised your right to privacy.  People formed opinions that either incriminated you or your husband, and some even had the audacity to tell you that your only choice was to break the covenant that God had brought together.  How you went through your rough season with so many people doing all but lifting you up, I have no idea.  I really wish that there was a way for men and women in the public eye to shield themselves from all of the negative and hurtful words.

Through all of this, you have stood firm on the word of God and fought for your marriage no matter what.  What I want to say to you, Tina, is thank you.  Your selflessness has meant so much to wives who know what it means to fight for your marriage.  I can tell you that while transitioning out of my own rough season (marital, but not infidelity), you were there.  You were raw and transparent to a degree that many don’t have the strength to reach.  Somehow, you channeled strength to me and other women like me through the pages of a magazine and through a television screen.  Suddenly, I wasn’t alone on this island trying to put broken pieces back together.  Suddenly, all of my feelings were validated, and through that validation I found strength to press forward.  I know that I am not alone when I say that watching you go through the fire and come out stronger was a true blessing to so many wives.

Your decision to share your heartbreak with the world was a selfless one, and I honor you for making it.  I’m sure that it would have been much easier to go through it within the privacy of your family – and you had every right to do that.  You chose to offer yourself as a sacrifice and be the image of hurting wives everywhere.  No doubt, your decision has saved lives and marriages all over the world.  Just know that you have a fan who is out here crying every tear with you, and praying for you all the while.  I love you with the love of the Lord!  I may never see you on this side, but one day in the distant future when we have both finished our earthly races, we surely can chat it up in heaven!  Until then, be blessed!



Food for thought:

Mark 10:9 - Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.

Have an issue/idea that you would like to see in a future post?  Email me at whitney.p.gordon@gmail.com.  It’s confidential!

Monday, March 3, 2014

When the World is Falling Apart...

Today, I want to talk to you all about the most trying times in life.  I’m not talking about financial woes or man problems, but rather those things that hit us so hard that we can’t begin to fathom what the blow will feel like ahead of time.  When you are confronted with the reality of life and death, the emotions that ensue are ones that you can’t prepare yourself for.  I remember when I lost my uncle a few years ago, I felt like the whole world didn’t make sense anymore.  For the first time in my life, I didn’t understand God.  I thought about heaven and hell in a way that I never had before.  True enough, there was a heaven that I longed to go to, but was I on the right path?  If I was, who would be waiting for me when I got there?

What hit me these past few weeks was different than that feeling, but just as deep.  Nobody died (thank God), but I have had to exercise my faith in a way that I never have before.  About two weeks ago, I learned that one of my closest loved ones got an unexpected and unfavorable report from the doctor after surgery.  It was one of those things that you never want to hear, but hearing it sooner rather than later was a blessing in disguise.  My hardest moments in life have always been watching the ones that I love in pain – physical and emotional.  I had to call on the Lord at a moment’s notice to give me the words to say and the actions to take to love my loved one with the love of Jesus.  The Lord came through, and the strength of our family prevailed.  I was keeping my head above water, and had full faith in God’s perfect timing, until……

I was driving to work one morning just a week later when my sister called me with some news.  A long-time friend of ours had been diagnosed with cancer at the age of just twenty-nine.  I had gotten to a place of complete faith after the news from the week before, and it was like this news literally fell out of the sky and hit me with the greatest force.  I cannot tell you how shocked I was, and I certainly can’t describe the way my heart ached.  It wasn’t that I cared about this news more than the other, but this person was just so close in age, ambition, and optimism.  No matter how many times I learn of sad stories of the young suffering in their health, being sick just felt like something reserved for generations much older than our own.  It wasn’t fair, it didn’t make sense, and honestly: it could have been me.

Can I stop for just a minute to tell you all an observation that I have made?  I have never seen a person deal with sickness or untimely death that would not be missed.   I’ve learned in life that the devil doesn’t usually go after the mean or the bitter – they usually live quite long.  It’s the ones who support their families with enduring and unfailing strength, like my loved one, who he seems to come for.  It’s the ones who effortlessly bring us joy and laughter, like my friend, who he goes after.  All that I can guess is that he goes for the ones that everyone loves because he wants to hurt everyone in one blow.  The devil had pulled the ultimate trick: he would hold the threat of losing someone whose spirit had touched so many in the forefront of our minds.  He would watch us get mad, cry, and eventually turn cold.  What he didn’t count on was our faith.

I have news for the enemy: I’m not the fragile young woman who fell to pieces when my uncle left us so suddenly.  I have found a voice in prayer that I believe was passed down to me from my late great grandmother who served as the intercessor for our family.  I will fight this battle in the spirit, and I mean to WIN!  J, if you are reading this, let me tell you one thing: you will live.  YOU WILL LIVE.  I’m no fortune teller, but the Bible tells me that you were already healed at Calvary by the stripes on Jesus’ back.

So the question is: what do you do when everything seems to be falling apart?  Well I can tell you that you will cry, and that’s OKAY.  Crying is a gift that God gave to us so that we can communicate our innermost emotions to him.  As much as you don’t want to weigh out the negative possibilities, you will.  They will stare you in the face and demand your attention.  After the crying and the fear, there comes an immense anger that will burn in the pit of your stomach.  No matter how hard you try to suppress it, it will eventually rise up and escape out of your mouth, your eyes, and even your hands in a rage that may surprise even you.  What you do with that anger is so crucial.  It carries the power of life and death.

These are the moments when you curse the devil.  These are the moments when you remind Satan how weak he is in comparison to the God that lives inside of you.  Let that anger turn into a fervent prayer, a determination that you will not give up on your faith in the word of God.  When we accept the blood of Jesus Christ, we inherit LIFE.  This is the time when you demand your inheritance.  The devil can only pretend to hold that inheritance in his hands, but in reality it is in heaven, packaged, and ready to go with a bow and gift tag with your name on it.  Claim that that gift of healing and life is yours.  Claim that that gift of healing and life belongs to your loved one.  Claim it every day, and worship like it’s already here!

So, that’s where I am.  I refuse to let the devil win, and there are some STRONG prayer warriors standing with me.  We will pray, fast, and do whatever it takes.  J, you will make us laugh for so many years, and you will not suffer through those years.  Gone are the days of the devil doing the cabbage patch while we sit back claiming “It was God’s will.”  God’s will is never for us to suffer, and always for us to LIVE.

Food for Thought:

Isaiah 55: 3 - But he was pierced for our transgressions,  he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Jeremiah 30:17 - But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’declares the Lord,‘because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares.’

Have an issue/idea that you would like to see in a future blog?  Email me at whitney.p.gordon@gmail.com.  It’s confidential!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Orphan Complex

Hello again to all of my readers!  First off, I apologize for taking a hiatus for a few weeks.  Between grad school, the Atlanta snow jam, and just regular old life I became extremely busy.  I have missed writing a lot, and I have so many things built up that it was tough to decide what to write about today.  I still owe you all a post about my Daniel fast, but today I want to talk about something that God has been in the process of delivering me from: the orphan mentality.

The orphan mentality is that nagging feeling that the promises of God just don’t work for us.  We believe in God, and we accept Jesus as our savior, but we often find ourselves navigating through life feeling frustrated, tired, and maybe even hopeless.  As its name suggests, the orphan mentality is that of a child of God who acts as though they have no heavenly father at times.  Through my personal experiences and encounters with others, I have noticed five major habits that usually accompany the orphan mentality. 

1.Falling apart at the slightest sign of trouble

Okay y’all, I must admit that I have this one bad, I mean REALLY bad.  The orphan doesn't have to be in trouble to wallow in stress - all she has to do is see stress in the distance over a few hills, and panic begins to arise.  This sign is for those people who get nervous that they failed the final exam and dread the impact that it will have their GPA before the grade has been posted.  I’m talking to the people who think about buying your baby’s Christmas gifts in August and have a mini panic attack because you don’t know where those extra finances will come from.  Yes, you know that God can make a way, but he didn’t make a way for Sally down the street who lost her house.  What if you end up like Sally?  You are a planner by nature, and that has been one of your best traits for the most part, but worrying is an unfortunate side-effect that you always regret in the end.  My dear, you have the orphan mentality.  Welcome to the club!  (Let’s not stay in the club, mmkay?)

2.Viewing vulnerability as a Sign of Weakness

Quite the opposite of sign number one, you are strong on purpose.  You were most likely raised in one of two environments: one where you were taught to never let anyone make you look weak, or one where you were made to feel weak constantly.  No matter what happens in this life, you are determined to count it as a badge of honor and press forward.  Faith is not an issue for you but…. you live inside a stone house with no windows and no doors.  You have emotions and doubts, but you wouldn’t dare let them be seen.  Relationships prove to be difficult because your strength is your pride and joy, and you remain guarded at all times.  When you finally have an emotional reaction to something, you surprise even yourself, and you hope to God that nobody is around to witness it.

3.Believing Harder for others than you do for Yourself

You see a story about a three-legged puppy on the news and want to adopt him.  When your loved ones are sick or hurt, you are the one who keeps the faith.  You pray.  You pray HARD.  (You are probably an intercessor weather you know it or not)  You believe that anyone can be saved, and can’t conjure up the nerve to label anyone as a lost cause.  The problem is…. the faith you have for others matches the doubt you have for yourself.  You are extremely self-critical, and you find yourself feeling guilty for things that God already forgave you for.  When you pray for your own health, finances, or well-being, you beg and plead hoping that God would see fit to drop a blessing on little-old-you like you’ve seen him do for others.

4.Constantly Waiting for Your “Moment”

You sit in what feels like the background and watch others advance to the next level.  You are most likely not completely clear about what your purpose is and you are waiting for God to give you clarity.  There’s nothing wrong with waiting on God, but in the process you settle for much less than being blessed.  You fantasize about the days ahead when you will finally live a comfortable life with a family that you love.  You have great faith that one day you will be doing what you love and glorifying God in the process, but “it’s not your season.”  You will wait until your time comes.   You will watch people excel and be genuinely happy for them.  Depending on how old you are, you may have come to a point where you start to wonder if your moment will ever come.

5.Trying to Fix Things before Turning them Over to God

You don’t know why you repeat this cycle every. single. time.  You find yourself in a jam, and you immediately go into Olivia Pope mode.  You have a plan of attack, and you even have plans B and C just in case something goes wrong.  You even consider how you will cope emotionally if everything fails – yes, you have a plan for avoiding an emotional breakdown.  This usually works until you hit one of those BIG bumps in the road.  If you lose your job, you are on the internet that same day updating and sending out resumes.  When a month or two go by and you haven’t had any interviews, though, you start to lose hope as your “anti-breakdown” plan derails.  Why is this happening?  You put in all of the work, and you didn’t cut any corners.  Oh yeah – you forgot to get on your knees and pray.

Okay, I’ve been living like an Orphan.  What Next?

Alright – If you’re a number 1 then breathe, it’s not the end of the world, and it can be fixed!  (lol)  Let me break something down for you all.  We already know this, but sometimes we just need a little reminder.  Jesus DIED for YOU.  If you were the only person in the world, he still would have gotten on that cross and died just so that you can make it to heaven.  You are a child of the richest, most loving, and most generous man that ever was and ever will be.  When you accepted Jesus into your heart, you became royalty.  You have a heavenly father who loves you and wants to give you the world – you are not alone in this life thing!

So, this is what I need for you all to do…….

#1 – Please, calm down (again).  That trouble will probably turn the corner before it gets to you, and if it happens to actually make it to you God will work it all out in your favor!  It’s the devil who whispers all of those worries in your ear.  How can you shut him up?  Praise GOD!

#2 – Strength is a virtue, it really is.  God did not intend for us to walk through this life alone – he loves us through it, and he is faithful enough to send us people who will love us even at our worst.  Pray to him that he will soften your heart and allow you to be vulnerable to those who truly love you and have your best (godly) interest at heart!

#3 – God’s love for you outnumbers every grain of sand on every beach in the world.  He not only can do for you what he does for others, but he wants to do that and more!  He admires your heart.  Allow yourself to be blessed – you deserve it!

#4 – Patience is something to be proud of, but be careful not to become complacent.  You may not be a CEO tomorrow, but in the name of Jesus, you are blessed TODAY!  You don’t have to wait one second for your moment to come to be blessed.  You ARE blessed!

#5 – You’re independent, and God made you that way.  The bottom line is that you need him, and not just after your plan fails.  He lives to take on your burdens and spin them into a beautiful masterpiece.  Next time you have a problem, pray first and plan later.

I know this one was long, but I hope it blessed somebody!  I will leave you all with a story (you knew it was coming!)  I was once watching Grey’s anatomy, and a character (named George?) had recently died.  His organs had been donated, and one of the recipients felt SO guilty that she lived only as a result of his death that she sat outside of the hospital where he worked and died every day and cried.  Finally one day, one of George’s loved ones saw her and became LIVID.  She went to her and commanded her to stop wasting what was left of him by wallowing in guilt and sorrow.  I would like to tell you that the orphan is like that organ recipient.  We go through life as though we are not royalty while Jesus wears the wounds that he received as our ticket into the kingdom.  Let’s not let his suffering be in vain.  Live like the child of God you are!

Food for thought:

Isaiah 53:3 - But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed

Have an issue/idea that you would like to see in a future blog?  Email me at whitney.p.gordon@gmail.com.  It’s confidential!