It is with great joy that I introduce our guest blogger, Teri Spence.  Teri isn’t one to toot her own horn so I’m going to do it for her and for the others like her who make more of an impact then they know.  If I had only one word I could use to describe Teri Spence it is the word LOVE.  She is a teacher at South Baldwin Christian Academy and is invaluable to the school.  She and other teachers like her could go work at other schools and make more money but they feel called to serve the students and their families right where God has planted them.  Teri pours into these students.  She is a phenomenal English teacher but even greater then anything she teaches these students academically is what she teaches everyone around her…. how to love and LOVE WELL!  This story gives us a true picture of what we are all called to do.  Grab a box of tissues and be blessed!

Terri Graduation Teacher Appreciation WeekLil T was an ironically nicknamed 10th grade boy I taught in Dallas. He was at least 6’3” and probably close to 200 lbs., but he had a sweet baby face. His skin was smooth and unblemished, the kind that would probably never grow a beard. But across his left cheek was a jagged puffy scar that went almost from ear to chin. He’d often try to hide it with his hand, especially when he laughed which was rare… he didn’t like to draw attention to himself.

I loved that kid from the get go. He was just sweet. Once I was helping the elementary school music teacher with a play she was doing. Twice a week I’d head over to the school late in the afternoons lugging my huge CD player to the gym. It wasn’t a great neighborhood, and there was always a group of boys hanging out by the fence wearing tank tops and pitching pennies. The 3rd time I went, I saw one of them heading toward me. My heart fluttered a little until I realized it was Thomas, Lil T. He was shaking his head.

“What are you doing here Ms. B?”, he asked. Don’t you know you’re in the hood?”

I explained, and he just laughed.

“You a trip,” he said.

Then taking the boom box from me, he carried it to the gym. When we finished practice it was dark, but he was still on the corner. I saw him split off from his group. He escorted me to my car, and so it went twice a week until the play was over.

While we walked he would tell me about his mom – how good she cooked, how he couldn’t wait for dinner that night, and how he looked out for her.

“She’s my number one,” he said and gave me one of his rare smiles.

Later in the semester, we had an open house. I looked forward to meeting T’s mom. I wanted to brag on his gentlemanly ways. She was a no show. I asked the principal when he walked by if he knew anything, all my calls that year had gone unanswered.

“Thomas’s mom is in prison,” he said, “has been for years…drug charges. He and his sisters are in foster care.”

He could see my look of shock. He was an old man, had been doing this for years and was close to retirement. His eyes softened with compassion when I told him all the stories Thomas had told me.

“Baby girl,” he said in his Texas accent, “you know that scar on Thomas’s face? His mama put it there. She cut him with an old steak knife one night when she was high. We all knew she did it, but he’s lied about it ever since. He was just 10 years old when it happened.”

I was only 24 then, a young teacher ready to save the world. Thomas was my first cry, but not my last, not by far. I can tell you this, children without a mom, they’re the saddest ones. Whether its neglect, divorce, or death, not having a mom around breaks them. I loved Thomas the best I could for the rest of that year and never told him I knew. He’s the first of many that I’ve just wanted to take home and raise, just to give him a fighting chance.

Lil T just disappeared the next year. It happened a lot in that area. Most of them either had to get jobs or went to the streets. I still think about him 20 years later.

My walk with the Lord had not yet begun then. I was working in my own strength, not praying over students like I do now. They still break me, but now I can tell them that they have a perfect parent and that they can rest in Him and have peace.

Just breathe,” I often find myself telling them. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.”

In our chaos, in the midst of our constant noise, when we, like Thomas feel abandoned and alone, it is that verse, that breath of a prayer that soothes me: He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

He will be exalted. Teaching, parenting, in every part of life it seems that the battles will be many, but we can rely on one promise…the war is already won.

by Teri Spence

Our Prayer

Father God, help us to love like Teri loves.  We ask for your courage to feel the heartbreak for others.  Let us not shrink away from letting our hearts break as your heart breaks for us.  Help us to not miss who you have placed before us on any given day…any given moment.  Each day is different.  The people come and go in and out of our day.  Give us eyes to see when we pray.  Thank you for the beautiful teachers and other people who serve the children of this world.  Lord, please strengthen them and bless them for what they do to love these children.  We ask that you send more people like Teri across the paths of all the Lil T’s of this world.  Help us to be a Teri in the life of another.  Help us not miss them Lord.  And wherever Lil T is, watch over him we pray.  May He know your love in a real and tangible way.

Scriptures for Meditation

1 Corinthians 13 (MSG)

The Way of Love

13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

8-10 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

11 When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.