Before we begin, appreciate the accidental amazing-ness that is this celebratory New Years Eve picture.
Moment taken? Good.
The beginning of my second semester at Southeastern University has been a whirlwind. Life is changing and God is ever present and showing up in unexpected ways.
Over Christmas break, I talked with several different friends who are of the practice of picking a word to be their “theme word” for the year. In the past, I’ve been fortunate enough to spend New Years Eve with some of my closest friends, and we would discuss our goals for the future and how God is leading our lives. This New Years, I was not able to be with them (even though we rang in the New Year with some amazing church friends from PA–with an epic homemade ball-dropping event too!) and I ended up not really sitting down to thing about goals or resolutions.
But this idea of a word, a theme to pursue over the course of the year, stuck with me. I considered some of the popular ones, words like “freedom”, “purposeful/intentional”, “discipline”…all excellent options, but not fitting for my season of life. I thought of some of my favorite Bible verses (shoutout to Ephesians for being my current favorite book of the Bible) and came up with a few more ideas, yet nothing stuck. So I moved on.
No one keeps their resolutions anyways, right? And the word idea is neat, but maybe it’s not for everyone. Plus, I hadn’t even ordered my textbooks for the new semester yet. I had other things to spend my time on.
Okay, I did instate a few goals. Fixed up a few time management issues from last semester by structuring my time better. Bought a gym membership to be able to participate in Body Pump (which I HAVE been going to, so). I’m just making sure you know I wasn’t a total slacker going into the New Year.
Anyways, the purpose of this blog post is to tell how God revealed my one word to me. How He brought to mind a Bible verse that had jumped out to me months ago and I had forgotten about–but suddenly came back to mind as a result of the events of the beginning of the semester.
It’s so cool to me how God works in us in each season in our life.
Myself and several other future music educators from Southeastern were able to attend the Florida Music Educators’ Association (FMEA) Conference in Tampa as the semester began. There’s nothing quite like being in a huge convention center surrounded by educators from every step of the journey, with many different ideas and methodology, but all with the same passion for music and for becoming better equipped to teach their students.
While these conferences are great for networking, I hardly did any. This professional development conference thing was new for me, and I wanted to simply experience it. The knowledge, the expertise, was phenomenal, but what was even more encouraging and inspiring to me was how badly these gifted educators wanted to share what they know with their fellow educators. It was truly a community of like-minded individuals who cared about helping one another grow in their craft. I learned so much. Also I got incredibly excited to have my own elementary classroom some day. Let me let you in on a little secret about the future, Mr. Sell is going to be the most fun teacher your kid has in elementary school.
I also discovered that Taco Bus is a wonderful thing.
FMEA made a distinct impression on me. Since becoming a music educator and attending SEU, I’ve been told multiple times how my professional career doesn’t start when I graduate, it has ALREADY started. This concept took a while to sink in for me. Partly because I didn’t truly believe it, partly because I was afraid to believe it (the professional adult world intimidates me), and partly because I wasn’t ready to give up a “fun” college experience.
FMEA, along with some friendly nudges from an all-knowing God, provided the boost I needed to buckle down and focus on what I’m doing now to be prepared for my future. I realized that starting to treat my desire to be a music educator as something that’s happening NOW and not something that’s happening when I graduate doesn’t mean I’m sacrificing a “fun” college experience. If you have to view your professional experiences as moments that are separate from your “fun” experiences, then you’re in the wrong profession. And if your definition of a “fun” college experience is watching Netflix and late night Taco Bell runs with friends (valid activities, for the record) with little other responsibilities, then you misunderstand what the college experience is.
FMEA was truly fun. My education courses last semester were truly fun. Taking more responsibility for my education and for my future shouldn’t detract from that fun, it should enhance it. I think it’s weird for my generation to view an increase of responsibility to be directly related to an increase of fun…yet that can absolutely be the case. It’s not always the case, but it can be. So don’t shy away from responsibility when it comes to your passion and your future!
So, some immediate results of my FMEA experience and my conviction to take more responsibility in preparing for my future: I ran for Vice President of SEU’s collegiate chapter of NAfME (National Association for Music Educators). Not only was I voted in as VP on the Executive Board (an awesome blessing), I was astounded by how God brought our new Eboard together. These people are friends, musicians, and fellow educators–which is enough in itself to ensure a solid Eboard–but God has placed on each of our hearts a similar desire for the growth of our particular NAfME chapter and for the potential for greater relationships and community. I’m incredibly excited to work alongside these people who I’m certain will one day be exemplary leaders and impressive educators in their districts.
I’m excited to build deeper relationships with the other music ed majors here at SEU. We’re gonna need each other when we’re on the job. These relationships will be crucial.
So that’s Part One of how my word for 2016 was revealed to me. By this point, I had already decided on what my word was. But I want to share what has happened this week that has confirmed it.
Eleven months ago, my little brother, Christopher Sell, had the privilege of going to hang out with Jesus before anyone else in my family. You can read about his homegoing here. It’s hard to explain what it’s like to lose a 13 year old little brother. Losing a loved one is always difficult, but what makes it even more difficult are the unique nuances to each individual’s particular situation. I didn’t just lose a loved one; I lost a boy who annoyed the crap out of me–but would gang up on the girls with me, who was at the peak of immaturity–but who would express deep desire to grow and change, who didn’t know when a joke had run its course–but who knew how to fill any room with joy.
Sorry. This isn’t a post to celebrate my little brother. But he was pretty awesome and I love talking about him, so I guess I’m not sorry.
An opportunity arose last semester for me to be a Big Brother with Tampa’s Big Brother Big Sister (BBBS) program. Christopher’s individual testimony and his impact in my life play a huge role in why I’m so passionate about being an elementary school music teacher. Why I’m so passionate about impacting young lives. BBBS provided an opportunity I couldn’t pass up–I would be able to impact a life…and satisfy the part of my heart that longed for a little brother again.
I applied in September and unfortunately had to endure a long period of waiting. But God’s timing is always perfect. I was eventually matched and was actually told of my final pairing while I was at the FMEA conference. The next week I was supposed to meet Jordan, a six year old first grader, at a nearby Boys and Girls club.
Then I had to wait some more. The first time we were scheduled to meet, the match specialist’s car broke down and we had to reschedule for the next week. But the next week, Jordan’s mom couldn’t come. Finally, I met Sarah (the match specialist), Jordan, and his mom on Wednesday afternoon.
Those of you who knew Christopher, get ready to have your mind blown by how God works:
Jordan’s favorite food: McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets
Jordan’s favorite things to do: play football and baseball
Jordan’s favorite school subject: Math (haha jk, Christopher HATED math)
And I was floored in awe when his mom shared with me some areas that Jordan struggled and needed encouragement in–these were areas that Christopher seriously struggled in.
I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe in a God who knows exactly what we need and who delights in surprising us. I’ve spent two days with Jordan so far and I can’t express how much this kid means to me already. How grateful I am that God has placed him in my life. I’m so humbled that I have the privilege to invest in a life that is so eager to learn.
Here’s the truly amazing part. As part of BBBS, Jordan and I have to set academic and personal goals for our time spent together. Our academic goal is related to his mathematical studies, and then we had to decide what we wanted our personal goal to be.
Jordan decided that I ought to learn how to throw a football since that was his favorite thing to do, so when I asked him at the end of our time together on Wednesday what our personal goal should be, this was his response:
“Well, I’m going to teach you how to play football, and you’re going to teach me how to be a grown man.”
My heart exploded.
My entire purpose, my entire passion, my divine design (to appease the SEU readers), is to impact the younger generation for the cause of Christ. To teach young students not just music, but how to grow.
Here, sitting beside me, was a six year old boy expressing how he wanted ME to teach him how to be a grown man.
Three cheers for my inadequacy.
My word for 2016 is TRAINING. Over the past few months, I’ve felt my life shift towards a season of training and preparation. As this word became apparent to me, I was reminded of 1 Timothy 4:7b-8.
Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
With my gym membership and the possibility of running in a sprint triathlon later this spring, I’ve begun bodily training.
As a result of FMEA and a renewed sense of focus and passion, I’ve come to realize the importance of taking active responsibility of my training to be a music educator.
I need training and instruction from the mentors in my life so I can train Jordan on how to be a grown man.
And, most importantly, because it holds promise for this present life and also for the life to come, I’m training myself for godliness.
It’s ridiculous how often I have to be re-reminded of the importance of filling my mind with Scripture and studying my Bible daily. It truly changes my attitude and actions throughout the day when I have devoted time to my Creator and His Word.
If you’ve read through all of this, thank you. I ask that you pray for me that I would train well. A season of training means that there will be a season of performance. I want to be prepared. I don’t want it to catch me unawares and struggle to make it through.
Training requires dedication and discipline. Pray that I might not slack off.
There is so much I have yet to learn. So many areas I have yet to grow.
I’m so thankful for my trainers–my teachers, my mentors, my friends. God has placed the perfect people in my life to train me for His perfect plan for me. I couldn’t be more grateful.
To the men who are reading this, especially those caught in the young adult transition like me: take the time right now and pray what Jordan said to me.
“Teach me how to be a grown man.”
Our world so desperately needs men who want to learn how to be grown men.
Train yourself for godliness.