"MOXIE: It's a street-smart spirit that's as old as recorded history and as new as the rising son. David had it; Goliath didn't. It can jump oceans and move mountains. It's a spirit of being that says, "I was born to do this!"
Recently one of my students came to me and asked if I had time to talk. My answer is always the same. "Of course I do. How much time do you need?" She is someone who has been struggling, struggling for a long time. She is bone-weary and spirit sore. She feels tired from the "fight of just surviving." She wonders if there can be another day that is rich with meaning, instead of being full of fear and trauma.
I met her at school, early one morning when we didn't have classes, and she came with two cups of Starbucks coffee. She had heard me say in class, when asked what my favorite coffee was, that I liked an iced mocha, but it had to be decaf. She remembered the specifics and her whole face lit up when I said, "Look at YOU. You even remembered what kind of coffee I like. That's a real deposit for me. Way to go and pay attention."
Now mind you, she has been in my Gender Communication class where we learn about bids, and deposits and withdrawals from our emotional bank accounts. We learn about turning toward others and the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse. We learn about John Gottman and the sturdy relationship house.
So when I said, "that's a real deposit for me," she knew exactly what I was talking about. A grin slowly spread across her face.
After a few dibs and dabs at conversation, I call them that since they are the precursor to what someone really wants to talk about, she began.
"I don't know where to start. I am so messed up. I feel like who I am is just slipping away, right in front of my eyes."
Big tears started to cascade down her cheeks, cheeks caked with makeup to hide anything that might look like an imperfection. She looked down, almost as if that was the only place she belonged. Under the radar. Out of sight. Not visible. Not worthy of looking someone straight in the eye.
"How do you do it?" she said as the tears started to roll. Almost like the ocean, wave-after-wave of tears and sobs.
I let her cry and just stayed in that very sad moment with her.
What an honor that she could be so real with me.
Finally, when the time seemed right, I reached out and took her hand and then, with my small, left hand, I gently raised her chin up so she could look at me.
Again she repeated the question, this time with even more energy, "How do you do it, Linda?" she added, "You are always so positive, so full of life and spirit. I have been watching you. Day-after-day you come in here filled up. My Grandma told me that some people have "moxie," this deep sense of spirit and purpose. You have that," she said, barely able to look at me.
"How do you do it?" she said, sounding more frustrated this time, as if how she was going about life just left her depleted.
I let her question rest in the air. I knew the answer, but wanted to share it gently. When I was ready, and had sent God a fast, "Help me Lord, help me to honor You with these words," I said, almost in a small, quiet whisper...
"I am not the one who does it, sweetie. God does it. I am just His vessel. What you see is His spirit in me."
This is what I love to call a "sacred moment." It is really why, after 50 years, I am still teaching. This is really what gives me grit and "moxie," as her Grandma used to say.
"Moxie" is a word that doesn't get used very much anymore.
Yet I love that word, enough so that some years back I purchased a small book and that word was the title. The book is filled with quotations, one liners as I like to call them.
I love the sayings. They are full of sparkle and pazzaze. They resonate with what I call "grit" and courage and resilience. Yet as much as I love the sayings, they leave me just a tad empty and asking the same kind of question my student was asking.
Where does genuine "moxie" come from?
My take is that if you see what looks like "moxie" or courage or grit in me, well it comes from the God I know and love and serve.
I would have "burned out" years ago if my spirit just came from me. At the first and fifth and twentieth tragedy or trauma, by myself I most likely would have folded.
Now please do not misunderstand me. When God made me, He made me to jump oceans and move mountains. He made me to shine and share His love. He didn't make me to live life quietly, although He did make some folks to do that.
When He made me, He gave me a "go get um' spirit!"
He infused me with a deep, deep love for others and a brimming-over passion for life. He made me to live "out loud" and to share my passion for living with others.
Yet, most of all, He made me to live with Him at the center of my life. Not me at the center, Him at the center. That's what my student saw. She saw God at work in me.
So back to the coffee conversation...
She slowly looked up and squeezed my hand. "Really, it's God in you that I see?"
"Yup. You got it," I said." This 70 year old wife and Mama and Nana and teacher and friend, relies on Him. Who you see is God at work in my life."
And that, my friends, is why I keep teaching. That is why I am still in the classroom where He wants me. So many of my students are so thirsty for life. They are amazing people, yet many of them feel really empty. I am there to share His love with them, for them to perhaps, if I get out of the way, see Him shining so brightly that they will want Him in their lives.
And she did, want Him. And right there, in that classroom waiting to be moved to a new location...filled with old boxes ready to go downstairs for fall classes...we talked about God's love and how He is a God that never leaves us or forsakes us. He is a God, that if we let Him, fills us up day-after-day. He is the God who is the Alpha and Omega, the one we can lean on when life throws us unimaginable curve balls.
I asked her if I might share her story on my blog, as long as I didn't use her name. She said, "Yes, of course. Maybe someone will want to know Him because of my story."
She picked up her heavy book bag, and I gave her a big hug. As she started to leave she turned around, this time with a big, old grin on her face. "Thanks!" she said. "I won't ever forget our talk." And I replied, "Neither will I, sweetie. Neither will I."
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