Chalk and Challenges: 3 Ways to Solve Life’s Difficulties

Balance reDefined Radio Podcast Episode 49

Chalk and Challenges: 3 Ways to Solve Life’s Difficulties


(the following is the transcript from my podcast)

Today I want to talk about chalk and challenges. It comes from a quote from Joyce Meyers, and I love this. She says, “Teachers can change lives with just the right mix of chalk and challenges.”

Isn’t that beautiful?

Now, I am a teacher by degree, and I did my student teaching, and I remember the challenges of dealing with some of those kids in the class, and I remember the experiences that I had in trying to change those things: solve the challenges; try to make a difference; try to do something different.

So I want to talk about this today in terms of for ourselves: the challenges we have for ourselves and the challenges that we come up against and how we respond.

It’s so easy to look at our challenges and say, “Why me? Why this, why now?”

I just had a conversation this morning with one of the gals in our program, in our Balanced reDefined Program, and she was just so done with a sickness that she’s been experiencing. She’s had illnesses off and on for many years. She’s a beautiful woman -very Pottery Barn-like; her home is like that. She’s just gorgeous and a woman of substance and kind and sharp and savvy, just amazing.

She’s just felt so held back by all these different illnesses that come, and we all have our challenges, and I always say we all have our handcarts that we all have to pull, and we don’t know always why. As she was sharing about that this morning, she was talking about how right now it’s a beautiful holiday season, and she just wants to be engaged and involved and why is this happening now?

She was not saying it out of a “pity me” at all. She was just saying,  “I just really want to be beyond this. I’m so ready to be beyond this,” and as we talked about some of the solutions to that, this whole “chalk and challenges” comes to mind because life is a teacher, God is a teacher, our experiences are teachers, and it’s “chalk and challenges.”

And me being a teacher, this is really near and dear to my heart, pulled it back to my experience teaching.

I remember in the classroom, in my student teaching, I was brought into the classroom, and I only had six to eight weeks that I would do my student teaching.  I came into a classroom where a woman was already teaching, and I remember when I first went in, she was giving me kind of the low-down on the room and she’s like, “Okay, so this kid” (for right now, we’ll just call him Miguel), “Miguel, you are not going to want to bother with him. He’s just, he’s a pain in the bum, and he goes to resource and so you don’t have to worry about him in the morning because he’s just always popping off,” and basically she was just really done. Now, in her defense, it’s the end of the year. She has a ton of kids in that class. It’s a tough grade. It’s later in elementary school and she is just exhausted.

She is–she’s given a lot of things to do that she’s got to help those kids do and overcome and the issues that they’re dealing with mentally and emotionally. She was in a socioeconomic area where the parents were maybe not as involved as they could have been because they had a lot of stresses on their own, and so I just want to make it a clear picture here.

It was just a really hard situation. Really tough. Now, I’m coming in because I am all giddy. I’m getting ready to finish college and I’m all excited and I’m going to make a difference in the world. So I’m coming in with a lot of energy anyway as it is. So just imagine that. But I was a little bit taken aback by the sense that I thought, “Oh my gosh, you’re with these kids every day. Where’s the hope? Where’s the joy about this?”

Of course, for teachers who teach, they know what happens. There’s the reality. And I found that out, too.

So anyway, the point being is that I came into this classroom and sure shootin’ Miguel was an issue right off the bat, and I really got peripheral about how do I handle this with hope and love and firmness and boundaries. It was a challenge, and I had the chalk and I’m like, “How do I do this without crushing his spirit, but setting a tone in the classroom that helps everybody else learn as well as well as him progress?”

The thought came to mind; they were sitting in a certain seating arrangement. I thought “I want to change this.” So, I put them into groups, instead of having them be in straight seating, I put them into groups and the idea  was I was going to have them help one another in this group to model what’s good behavior and then get rewarded for that good behavior.

I did these popcorn jars whereas when I would catch them doing the behaviors that we decided as a class, got the buy-in, had a few behaviors that were sort of like the class commandments and this is what we do. And we all agreed this is how we behave, and then I had jars for each of the tables, and every time I caught them doing something good, I would put more popcorn kernels in there with the idea that in a certain number of weeks then we would do a popcorn party. And that’s how much popcorn they got to eat at that popcorn party. And you know, kids will work for popcorn. I will tell you that. So, of course, this was 15, 20 years ago, so I don’t know. But maybe nowadays you need to have a Nintendo Switch. I don’t know.

The beauty was I really focused on this Miguel – trying to help him learn some leadership skills, trying to reward the good behavior and trying to subtly,  and sometimes firmly, set a boundary on the behavior that was not helpful. And you know what was interesting is with a lot of help from above that this young man so good, by the end of that time, he was the leader in his group. He was the one that was shushing the other kids at the table. He was the one that was saying, “This is how we’re going to roll. This is how we’re going to do it.”

And what I had learned from that is that the challenge was that he needed to feel needed. He needed a leadership role. He needed to be attended and a half some attention that he probably wasn’t getting in other spaces that he may have wanted. And so once he got that, it filled that gap. And so he was able to move forward once I could figure out a good solution to this challenge.

So it’s made me think, make it full circle back to this experience I had with this gal on our program this morning. Her challenge was that she couldn’t do, she wasn’t able to do what she wanted to do. Sometimes our challenges are: we’ve got to get in, we’ve got to rework a situation like I had to do and then I had some wonderful success with that and that was such a beautiful experience.

So when you consider that in your life, when you’ve had that moment, the challenge can also be like this gal, where are our control is taken from us. That we feel like it is and we feel like the things we really want to be doing, we’re not able to be doing. But if we could, we could so make a difference or we could so have much more joy or we could so have something else in our lives.

I’m going to give you three steps to be able to deal with this, with the challenge in your life that maybe you need to learn how to deal with that isn’t seemingly the usual proactive, get in and make it happen. This chalks and challenge.

As a reminder,  it’s a quote from Joyce Meyer. Again, I’ll just refresh it.

“Teachers can change lives with just the right mix of chalk and challenges.”

What that means to me is that there’s a mix of instruction and learning and wisdom and edification and know-how and tools and then it’s applying it to the challenges: helping someone uplevel, helping them become and do with what they’ve been given to apply it to a situation that’s in real life.  Whatever that means to you, I’d love to hear about it. Post it in the comments.

So, the three tips that I want to give you on accepting a challenge, remember I was sharing that there’s challenges that we can dive in. We can choose to do it differently and bloom, we can choose to have a certain result with the control that we have.

Sometimes we’re given a situation, especially personally, that we don’t have as much control over and we feel like we can’t be successful. We can’t move forward, we can’t have joy because so much of the control is taken from us. And I mentioned about this gal on my program, the Balance reDefined that she has been dealing with lots of different illnesses and feels like she can’t move forward, can’t get out of that, a mental, physical, and emotional box.


So the first step that we talked about as I talked with her this morning and did some coaching, was to

First, accept what is. Just accept what is, don’t waste precious energy fighting and writhing about sort of the standing in the quicksand. Don’t make it worse by this writhing about and being frustrated by the situation. And to her credit, she really was not complaining, she was just addressing it, but the frustration that she felt was there, of when is this going to end and when can I get back to being normal?

But first she had to accept what is; accept it. This is part of the learning process. If all we could do all day long was go and proactively deal with challenges and create change, we would be exhausted and we be annoying to live with, quite frankly. So consider maybe what that looks like in your life. Is there something that you’re pushing back against and that you’re wasting energy by trying to deny or blame or whine about what is, I would encourage you to just accept.

This is. It just is. This financial situation is what it is. My health is what it is. My child, who is acting this way is acting this way. It is what it is.

Before we can solve it, we have to acknowledge it.

We have to say, yeah, this is what it is. So now what do we do about it? So first thing is to accept that.

The second thing is maybe ask yourself, what is it that I need from this? And not in like a touchy-feely kind of a little, you know, gift card way, but really asking your divine influence, whether it’s God or whether it’s the universe or whatever that is for you. Asking your divine influence. What is it that I need from this? It’s maybe not even to ask what you need to learn from it. Just what do you need from it? Is it temperance? Is it gratitude? Is it patience? Is it understanding? Is it humility? Is it compassion? Is it information?

I have a friend who’s dealt with illnesses that’s not in the program that she’s been dealing with illnesses and she said, I am learning so much about this very unique illness and it’s broadening her in the work that she does with children. It’s really amazing how it’s tying in, so there may be layered reasons for what we go through, so consider what do you need from this?

And I asked her that. I said, you know, it may feel like–she’s like, “Oh my kids are wrapping presents downstairs and I want to be engaged,”

I suggested “perhaps what you need from this is taking time to do things that you wouldn’t do or do them differently.”

Her kids are now learning some life skills that maybe they wouldn’t have learned before because she’s so capable. Maybe this time that she’s spending in bed and resting, maybe it’s preparing her health for something that’s coming in the coming year.

She’s getting time, actual conscious time to lay down and rest to actually heal her body intentionally. What a gift. How many of us go, “oh, I really should take a nap. I really should rest. Oh, I could really use a break right now.” And we just plow on through right we’re the Energizer Bunny. But she can be able to consciously choose to fill that need.

She could have the need to spend more one on eyeball to eyeball time with her children while she’s in bed. She can play a game with them on the bed. She can read with them, she can have discussions with them and talks with them. She can share a delight with them. Something that they bake, they can share it together. She can teach them some life skills, teach them some things she’s wanted to teach them that you just don’t feel like you get those teaching moments.

She can make that consciously say, you know what, 15 minutes you meet up here on the bed, the game of sorry, game on. She can do something like that where they know and feel valued and loved and she can also improve and nourish her mind and soul. She can listen to books, she can read books, she can study things that she’s wanted to study, but we never make time for. –“Oh yeah, I really should read that.”– And we’re trying to do it in snippets as we’re driving and doing pickup, she can actually take time to do that.

When you start looking at this, it shifts the lens. It doesn’t make it all better. It doesn’t suddenly shift that whole experience and wow, so glad that I have at other, we can get there.

And that’s the third point is gratitude.

Gratitude is the beginning of all other virtues. Gratitude is where it starts and where it ends. If we can get in a frame of mind, of gratitude, in a space of gratitude right now, right this minute, pause and for one minute have a gratitude of “this is what I’m thankful for. I am so thankful today for X, Y, and Z,” whatever it might be. Just have that attitude of gratitude, that space of gratitude, all things will begin to work for your good.

It is incredible how that works and there are studies to back it up. So, in that gratitude space, what could she do? She could make a list of the things that are making this a positive experience. Things that she’s grateful that it is creating or providing for her that she would not have seen before.

I tell my children it’s the fleas in the barracks. This is the whole the Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, and remember her sister Betsy was always so positive while they’re in this concentration camp (based on a true story) and she was like, “I’ve had it.” One day she just had it, “Betsy, how can you be so positive? We are in a concentration camp,” and she was being thankful for the fleas in their barracks and she’s like, “Ah, that’s too far. Okay, you just have gone too far. You’re actually like nigh unto to delusional. How can we be thankful for the fleas? It’s biting as it makes us so we can’t sleep.”

And she says “The fleas make it so the guards do not come in here, which means they don’t check and search our belongings. The few that we have and find the Bible,” which if they found would be a huge problem. So she’s thankful for the fleas because it keeps the guards out and they’re able to read the word of God, which is what they wanted to do and is what sustained them through that horrible, horrible time.

And so I tell my kids, it’s the fleas in the barracks. That’s exactly what it is. You, I don’t have anything to be thankful for in this situation. It’s just awful. And yet you do. There are reasons. There are layered benefits that we in our mortal whiny, finite minds cannot see, but they’re there.

Just because we don’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there. I always love when you’re looking at a painting and the artist has put some kind of symbol in there, some kind of hidden something almost like the where’s Waldo on that little, you know, child scale, but where you can’t see it until somebody points it out and then you go, oh, that’s what that is.

There’s a picture of Jesus Christ where he’s kneeling in Gethsemane. And it’s not until someone pointed out in this one particular painting, this kind of shadow outline of an angel. It was the ministering angel that sustained him that I did not ever had, never even noticed or seen that. So it’s wonderful when we can look for those things and it begins with gratitude and that’s when our eyes are opened and our perspective is magnified and enlarged. And we start to see the layered reasons and benefits.

And it shifts the way we look at our lives. It shifts the way that we approach it.

So I hope today that you got some good tips and some good topics, some thoughts and ideas on how to deal with some of the challenges in your life and that balance of chalk and challenges – the balance of taking these tools that I’m sharing with you today, almost as chalk on a chalkboard and then applying it to a situation or a person or something in your life that you really feel like this is a challenge and need help. And it feels like you don’t have a lot of control.

Try applying one of these tips and then comment below, let us know the experience that you’ve had and any tips that you might have to add on to what I’m sharing today.

Love, love, love this, so feel free to do that.

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