Biblical Teachers in a Secular World

This year I have the privilege of teaching in a Christian school for the first time where I have the opportunity to share the the word of God with my students every day and incorporate biblical truths into every lesson. Our culture operates in a way that for most teachers this is not a possibility. In fact, many teachers will be stepping into classrooms this month where they are discouraged from even sharing that they are a Christian. What is most heartbreaking about this is that there are children whose only exposure to a Christian is in a classroom where they are not allowed to share their faith or anything that is not mandated on the state curriculum by people that will never know these children.

Our teachers are sometimes the only constant in a child’s life and I sympathize with those who are held back from fully pouring into a lost child. As we head back to school, I wanted to share a post I wrote in the summer of 2020 as I prepared to begin a new school year in a secular classroom.

“And They’ll Know We Are Christians” Originally published August 19, 2020

And They’ll Know We Are Christians

As most of the country is getting ready to head back to school (whatever that may look like), I have been spending a lot of my prayer time focusing on my classroom, curriculum and the students I will get to shepherd this year. As a Christian, what does it look like to teach students in a secular school environment? How can teachers honor God and best serve their students without crossing religious boundaries at public schools? I have been reflecting a lot on when I first moved to Roswell and an experience that has really shaped me as a teacher and as a member of our church here.

Taylor and I first started looking at churches in Roswell after we married and I moved out here. On Easter Sunday, we visited the church we go to now for the first time. All I can say about a large bible church compared to my Episcopalian upbringing is that it was certainly different. We were greeted with a loud worship band and I was shocked by how casual many people in the congregation were. Not a single Easter bonnet in sight! I immediately whispered to Taylor, “I don’t like it.” After lowering my big city nose a bit and listening to an incredible sermon, we went back the following Sunday. As a teacher moving in the middle of the school year, I had only been working as a substitute on occasion and was still very much praying to find my place in Roswell and searching for purpose.

The Sunday after Easter there was an announcement during the service that they were in need of volunteers for the Fine Arts Camp coming up at the beginning of summer. Afterwards, I walked up to the head pastor’s wife, Mary, who was putting on the camp and introduced myself. This was still very out of my comfort zone at the time, but I felt compelled. I told her that I was an art teacher and was interested in helping. As we shook hands, Mary just said point blank, “I prayed for you.” She told me that she was in desperate need of someone to teach art to the younger kids and had been praying someone would come along. I realized in that moment that this was the purpose and place I had been praying for and Taylor and I had found our church home.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34-35

As I prepped projects for Fine Arts Camp, one of the first questions I asked Mary was if there was a biblical curriculum or theme for the week. I will never forget what she told me. “No. This week is about showing the children of Roswell Jesus through our love.” I was thrown off by this at first, but then saw how brilliant it was. Our church’s goal has always been to reach 10% of our town’s population. Not every kid has the privilege of growing up in the church and, unfortunately, bad experiences or misinformation can even leave some in fear of the church. I was so intrigued of the mission to just be a fun and safe place for our community with the added allure for many of free child care. After all, the first step of bringing people to the church is getting their feet through the door. People don’t always come to Jesus in a single instance, but opening a safe place builds that foundation.

I often think of the Jars of Clay song that reminds us, “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” This might be the best mindset when it comes to teaching in a secular school as well as all of our interactions. My biggest embarrassments are the times when I have acted or spoken in ways that are contradictory to the Christian image. My biggest goal as a woman, mother and teacher is to show those around me my faith through my actions. I don’t need to declare my religious beliefs or teach the bible in school in order to show my students the love of Jesus. Let us all strive to act in ways that when we encounter others they will know we are Christians by our love.

Love, Molly

Copyright © 2022 M. Marley, LLC.

There’s No Place Like Home

Have you ever been homesick for a moment in time? Whenever my girls can’t sleep, they like to come snuggle on the couch next to me and ask if we can look at pictures on the phone. They especially love watching videos of themselves from when they were “little.” Admittedly, I also love this look back in time despite being manipulated into letting them stay up later. I love peering back into their baby and toddler years and remembering their little voices, their wobbly movements and what our home and everyday world looked like before it was shattered. Those years are such a precious moment in time and now they are gone, existing only in my memory and iCloud.

The last couple years have been full of the unexpected. Full of joy, full of sorrow, and full of life. While weathering the storm of sudden widowhood, single parenting through grief and teaching in both the face and aftermath of a pandemic, I have had one constant; God is with me. When life as we know if changes in the blink of an eye, we can rest assured that those surprises have already been known to the Creator since the beginning of time. The Lord already knows what lies ahead on the paths we are each walking and offers us a hand as we navigate our footing down each slippery slope and crumbling rock.

At the beginning of 2014 when Taylor and I got back from our honeymoon and packed up the rest of my things in Texas to move me to New Mexico, I sat in the passenger seat of his pickup as we pulled out of my parents driveway thinking that I would never live near them again after spending my first 26 years of life in the same zip code. When I chose Taylor, I knew that meant choosing to make a life alongside of his work on the ranches. My place was wherever he was. We used to speculate that if life ever gave us the opportunity to move back to Fort Worth it would either be because we had become wildly successful or because s*** hit the fan.

“Then the Lord said to Jacob, ‘Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.'”

Genesis 31:3

Well, the fan was hit. Hard. Since losing Taylor, time has seemed to move simultaneously faster and painstakingly slower and I have spent a lot of time waiting. Waiting alone in a “foreign land” for God to call me at the right time and lead me to the next right place. I learned a long time ago (although I constantly need to remind myself) not to be anxious for anything because when God’s timing is right, doors are opened and plans are revealed. After a couple years of waiting, God has called me home to Fort Worth, Texas where the girls and I will all start the new school year together on the same campus. Trusting that God would reveal the right path at the right time is always worth the wait.

I’m sure everyone has felt at some point like they are living in a holding pen. Holding steady and patiently waiting to make their next move. Waiting is universal. We are all waiting for different things wether it be a new job, a relationship, a baby, a medical cure, etc… The one thing we all have in common is that we are all waiting on answers to our prayers. We might not always get the answer we want and sometimes we are lead to keep waiting, but God always provides us with the answers when we ask and listen. Most importantly, we can be assured that when it is time to walk down a new path in life that God will always be with us.

Love, Molly

Copyright © 2022, M. Marley, LLC

A Gift From the Heart

When it comes to gift giving, it is often said that it is the thought that counts. This is especially true when a gift is given from the pure heart of a child. A toddler who extends their chubby hand clenching goldfish in a gesture to share their snack with you is one of the most genuine gifts in the world. They have nothing else to offer and they most likely are not aware of when they will get another snack, yet they still want to share with you what they have. While crackers being offered by a small child that have been God knows where may not be appetizing, the heartfelt offering certainly feeds the soul.

A few weeks ago, Margot did not have school due to parent teacher conferences so I brought her to my school for the day. She loves helping in the art room, but grew wary of being gushed over by middle schoolers. Towards the end of the day, she joined the kindergarten class at my school for afternoon recess. Margot has some really good friends that attend my school and enjoyed meeting and playing with the other kindergarteners too. When my last class was over, I walked to our elementary building to meet Margot on the playground. She was busy running around so I visited with the other teachers while the kindergarteners continued to play.

One of my students spotted me and came over to ask me more about Margot. This little girl was curious why she wasn’t at her school today and came to work with me. I explained that her school wasn’t open that day. She then started questioning me more the way five year olds tend to do. Where does she go to school? Why was it closed that day? and then….Why couldn’t her daddy watch her and where was he today? This is always a gut punch. As much as I hate that my girls lost part of their innocence when they lost their dad, I hate for other people’s children to be aware via our lives that bad things happen in this world. Still, kids are smart and more understanding than we often give them credit for. When talking about Taylor with my girls or their friends I try to be direct and keep my answers simple. They are genuinely curious, but don’t need to know any more than what they are asking. I bent down and told this little girl very matter of factly, “Margot’s daddy, my husband, died so he is in heaven now. This kindergartener paused to take in the information, and then took off.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

I got wrapped back up in conversation with the other teachers and then all of the sudden the little girl was back. She held out her hand and presented me with a little treasure…flowers and grass picked from the playground wrapped up in a shiny piece of foil that looked like a discarded gum or candy wrapper. She placed this gathered bouquet in my hand and told me, “This is for your husband dying.” As I was telling her thank you, a second kindergartner appeared to hand me a similar creation and a few pebbles. She offered a similar sentiment and then they both ran off to go play. I was awestruck that in hearing something sad about my life this child’s first reaction was to immediately want to offer me consolation in the best way she knew how. Not only did she scavenge her available resources to find and create a gift for me, but she also recruited a friend to do the same.

This weekend many of us will celebrate the greatest gift ever given, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If there’s one scripture that sums up the gist of the Christian faith it is John 3:16. The gift that God gave us of his one and only Son is truly incomparable. The best part about this gift is that the sacrifice Jesus made for humankind on the cross is an invitation to share in His inheritance for all of eternity and this invitation is for every single one of us. I hope you will follow the lead of my student and recruit a friend to share in this gift. If you haven’t already invited someone to join you for worship on Easter Sunday, I hope that this serves as a reminder that one of the best things you can offer someone else is an outstretched hand.

Love, Molly

Copyright © 2022, M. Marley, LLC