In April, I walked away from this blog, purged my overflowing paint room, and figuratively set my creative self aside until further notice. I encouraged myself with thoughts like: “This is the answer. Finally God is speaking clearly through circumstances. Today, at this moment, I know what I am NOT supposed to do. Stop the waffling, cease the analyzing, simply march. Onward, ho.”
So I renewed my teaching credentials, clicked ‘yes’ to numerous substitute jobs in middle and high school classrooms, and marveled daily that they permitted this 40-something nobody into public classrooms with vibrant young people rehearsing for orchestra concerts, molding clay on potter’s wheels, analyzing “A Street Car Named Desire,” and chewing erasers through intense Calculus finals.
It has been 16 years, people. 16 years since I’ve managed a high school classroom, stood in front of little beauty queens with perfect eyebrows, chatted with athletes shuffling their weary selves around in joggers and slides (one must be in this world, ya’ll, to keep up with fashion terms. They used to be called sweats and slip-ons. Keep up…keep up…), sat patiently with the quiet one in the back, listening…..and being.
These kids are amazing, each and every one of them. I sit in their classrooms and watch them interact, listen to their ideas, answer their questions, laugh at their humor, love their naivete-posing-wise. How young and impressionable they are! How full of life and hope and desire! So much potential in their creativity and enthusiasm, their intelligence and perceptions, in their friendships and striving.
And I found something else, too.
Something in me that had long laid dormant. An ember beginning to glow as a tiny wisp of unexpected breeze whispered hello. 16 years a stay-at-home mom. 16 years abiding in my home. 16 years of nurturing, preparing, cooking, creating, studying, praying, cleaning, organizing, calendaring, communing. 16 years of beautiful, precious, aching time that chokes my throat if I ponder its passing.
In me, too, is a teacher who stood, wondering, in a classroom today, and slowly recognized a familiar haven: Home.
My answer is not as clear as it appeared in April. The ups and downs of job security continue to plague us, although this week feels more predictable and stable than last. I’m immensely relieved I didn’t throw away ALL the paint (although the faces of sheer delight at our local dump would’ve made it almost worth a total purge). I’ve applied for two teaching jobs starting in the fall. I finished painting a Tuscan-yellow coffee table I started in March. I started posting on Instagram again. I found an AMAZING vintage iron bed for my daughter’s room makeover.
I recognize now, as I reflect on April, that I was throwing my own version of a fit. With life circumstances shifting from expectations and want, I became disillusioned and resigned. Always a believer in goal-setting — many life decisions, in fact, based on written versions in my planner — lately I ponder where surrender plays in to all of this? How do we walk a holy line embracing and planning life while simultaneously surrendering to it with grace and humility?
In his famous book Man’s Search for Meaning, Jewish psychiatrist Viktor Frankl reflects on his time ~ and inmates’ responses ~ to imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps. He came to this conclusion:
“It did not really matter what we expected from life,
but rather what life expected from us.
We needed to stop asking the meaning of life,
and instead think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life –
daily and hourly.”
This is where I am today. Thinking of myself as being questioned by life. Hearing a God who loves and orchestrates and invites quietly ask: “These are the circumstances I have prepared for you. Are you in?”
Today it feels like yes, but surrender often looks more like process than simple choice. Maybe wisdom lies in my surrendering to process.