Grace for Young Mothers

I haven’t written lately.

I haven’t painted.

I haven’t sewn a book or printed on the handmade paper I recently made.

Yet I have been doing the very things for which I retired. I am spending time with our grandchildren.

I walked into my studio yesterday to check the tiles I made with 8 of our grandchildren. The calm, creative atmosphere of the studio hit me, along with the fact that I have several projects in the works waiting to be attended to. “I LOVE working in this studio,” I thought.

But there will be time later, I thought. Grace.

These thoughts took me back 36 years to the time our children were little. It seemed like I faced a never ending cycle of meals, laundry, cleaning. Oh…. forget the cleaning. I did.

I didn’t write – except a random letter once in a great while.

I didn’t paint – except for a stick horse, a wall mural, or doll furniture.

I did not make anything “creative.”

But wait!

I was doing exactly what I planned to do when I left teaching full time. I was spending time with our children. “There would be time later to “create”, I thought.


When God births a desire in our hearts, He is faithful to fulfill it in His time. We must wait and trust. I realized this week that I could choose to lament the time I am not in my studio, or enjoy the fact that our grandchildren are here and that I can treasure this time with them.

I am so thankful I chose the latter. We are having a lovely time. (I am worn out!)

A friend, Lena Woods, told me this week that her favorite memories from childhood were spending time with her cousins at her grandmother’s house. I hope we are creating some very special memories for our grandchildren as well.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 2  a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

This Scripture passage goes on to list many of life’s activities. Each thing has a time and a place. God’s time and God’s place.

So, I am going to go now and make lunches and we are going to ride bikes.

The studio will be there next month.

The grandchildren will not. Grace.


Nana and Minions

For the first time in my life, my schedule does not revolve around a school calendar.

Even before I started kindergarten in 1957, our family’s schedule followed the school calendar because my father taught high school.

I went from attending elementary school to junior high, then high school, and on to college. I graduated in June of 1974 and began teaching in August of that year. When we began having children, Phil was in seminary, afterward he began working at WCU in campus ministry, and then on to his teaching career as our own children began school. All that time we followed a school schedule.

I re-entered the “work force” as a volunteer teacher when our youngest child entered kindergarten and have been teaching in one capacity or another until I retired in June.

Last week I did not get up and either get myself or others ready for school.

My life until now has had a definite pattern – the school schedule.

  • start in August or September
  • new classes, new lessons, new challenges
  • off for Thanksgiving and Christmas
  • classes through winter (hoping for snow days)
  • off for spring break
  • finish the year STRONG
  • organize for the coming school year
  • off for the summer to RECHARGE
  • start again…..

Artists use pattern in many ways. The principle of design “pattern” is defined this way – “the regular arrangement of alternated or repeated elements.”

Patterns in art work give a sense of order and completeness.

Patterns in our lives give us a sense of order and security.

Children who have a pattern to their day are happier and healthier. They eat better and sleep better when they have regular times to eat and sleep. There will always be situations when these patterns are interrupted, but maintaining a routine whenever possible is so beneficial.

This pattern also develops a sense of security in the child because they know what is coming next. Children like the feeling of anticipating the activity they will do next and planning for it. That is not to say they don’t like surprises, but knowing what is next helps children cope with their surroundings and various situations. This is especially true for some children who NEED a pattern to their day to feel secure. These children will be better able to handle the inevitable changes to their routine better if they are given a warning of the change whenever possible and time to adjust.

We tried to maintain the pattern that our daughter and her husband have established this past week when their three middle boys stayed with us. Their family began to keep this schedule when their twins were born and their oldest child was 18 months old. The pattern was their link to sanity!

It has also created happy, secure children who generally know what is coming next. Not to say there are no surprises…. in fact there is never a dull moment!

The most important benefit is control of the chaos.

Truth be told, we adults function better when we have a regular routine. We used to tease my father that he always ate and went to bed at regular times, even when he was much younger. Now at 91 it seems to have paid off. He is very healthy and active.

Just as following a pattern, or repeating positive actions, is beneficial for our physical lives, it is even more important in our spiritual lives. Paul tells Timothy to follow the pattern Paul has set as he follows Jesus.

2 Timothy 1:13-14  (NLT)

13 Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. 14 Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.

That is the most important pattern one can have in life – following the pattern of Jesus – living as He lived.

In a very real sense, my pattern has not changed since I have retired. I desired to follow Jesus before retirement – I desire to follow Him now as well.

May our lives be a beautiful pattern, reflecting the image God.





The Word is Out

I am going to retire from teaching at the end of this school year.

It is with sadness and joy that I made this decision. Sadness – because I love to teach and I love the students. Joy – because I will be entering a new phase of life.

I began my teaching career 40 years ago during the 1974-1975 school year. I taught at Almond School in Swain County and I knew I had found my calling. Almond School was a small K-8 community school with amazing parent involvement and excellent teachers. I was mentored by some of the best. I taught in Swain County for three years during which time I met Phil. We got married, and June 9th of that 3rd year we had our first child – he was born the last day of school.

Miss Gayle Barker -1975

Miss Gayle Barker -1975


For the sake of full disclosure I must state that I have not taught school all 40 of those years. I stayed home with small children, volunteered at our church’s Christian School part-time and volunteered for the Jackson County Department of Public Health. Volunteering for the Health Department turned into a part-time job that involved teaching in all the schools in Jackson County.

I returned to full-time teaching and finally – as my mother loves to point out – starting using my college degree – art. Teaching art has given me a sense of fulfillment and pleasure that has confirmed for me that I was right where I was supposed to be – Smoky Mountain High School.

The decision to retire is based on three situations that confirmed this was the right time –

  • my parents, who had lived with us for 8 1/2 years, moved into a retirement community in my hometown of Wheaton, Illinois where my brother and his wife live. My father will be 91 next week and my mother will be 87 the week after. I miss them and want to go visit them more frequently.
  • our oldest daughter now lives in Maryland with her husband and four children and I plan to make that trip more often. I don’t want to miss so much of their young lives.
  • our youngest daughter will be having our 12th grandchild in August and I want to be available to assist her in every way I can. Our son-in-law said he would build a shed in the backyard so I could move in. How sweet!!

I really believe that teaching was my calling professionally and even more so spiritually. God has given me a love for high school students – even the ones who challenge my sanity – maybe especially those. I have enjoyed seeing the joy of discovery on the faces of students and hearing their excitement when they master a new skill in art class. I have learned so much from my students as well. That I will miss.

Mrs. Gayle Woody - 2015

Mrs. Gayle Woody – 2015

I am not retiring from my desire to honor God in all I do.

I will just be doing different things.

One of my underlying messages to students has been that life DOES NOT END AT 25, or 30, or 40, or, 50 – even 63!   I plan to exemplify that truth in the years I have left.

Colossians 3:16-17 are verses that have guided me since I was in college – especially verse 17.

16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

God is faithful. I anticipate with joy what lies ahead  – as I leave with sadness the co-workers and students of Smoky Mountain High School.

I have been richly blessed.