The Gift

At this very moment I am sitting in my kitchen with a pile of rocks spread out across my countertop, crying my eyes out. A strange thing to be doing on a Sunday morning, to be sure.

But there is a good reason.

You see, as I entered the sanctuary for worship this morning, a dear friend approached with a gift bag.

A retirement gift.

A good-luck-as-you-pursue-the-pulpit gift.

“You’ll understand it when you read the card,” she said.

Reading through the card, my eyes immediately teared. But it wasn’t until I got home and actually opened the gift that I understood the magnitude of love that had been poured out on me.

At first glance, it was a lovely glass vase filled with colorful river rocks. But as I looked closer I could see there were words written on them. Her card had told me it was a “Rock of Encouragement” jar.

The accompanying card had said,”…with any new experience there can be ups and downs…when you need it, reach in and find a word on it that describes you! Not just any words, but words I received from your family, friends, co-workers, students and church family.”

I emptied the jar and began to read, smiling with each adjective.

“Witty”

“Faithful”

“Angelic” Hmmm…does that person really know me?

“Loving” Aww, so sweet.

“Partner in Crime” Now that’s more like it.

“Blonde” Perhaps some interesting implications

Then I came to the one that stopped me short.

Cue the waterworks.

Because as I read it, I heard the still small voice of the Spirit say, “That one’s from Me.

“Chosen”

The last three weeks have been emotionally and physically grueling.

I packed up twenty-two years of teaching and officially retired from public education…

Endured two weeks of bronchitis and pneumonia…

Wrecked my back by repeatedly picking up and putting a two year-old on the potty…

Made a quick trip to Kansas City to help out my daughter…

And had my first eight-hour License to Preach class.

By yesterday evening the only word that I would have picked to describe myself was

OVERWHELMED.

And yet here I am, on Sunday morning, tears running down my face knowing that is not how I am defined by the Maker of the Universe.

I am chosen.

Like each of us are.

I am not alone in my journey. Yes, I am called to be light and salt to the world. But I do so in the presence of a great cloud of witnesses that have gone before me and those who walk beside me in the here and now.

To the one who is reading this right this very minute, please know my friend, you are precious to the One who made you.

And no matter what other adjectives you may have picked to describe yourself at any given moment there are ones that supersede them.

Loved

Redeemed

Chosen Child of God

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bitter and the Sweet

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted.

Months really.

It’s been a crazy, busy year. Transitional, in many respects. No excuse for not writing though, except that maybe I wasn’t sure what to say.

But today I woke up knowing I needed to write.

In the next few weeks I will put a final period at the end of a creatively fueled twenty-two year-long-run-on sentence that has been a central expression of who I am. After spending my entire adult life actively engaged in the lives of little ones – teaching, nurturing, laughing and loving – I’m going to step away from the public school arena. And as the day draws closer, my emotions seem to be stuck on overdrive.

Elation

Sadness

Excitement

Nostalgic

Grateful

Humble

So very, very humble.

But don’t think that this reflection is going to have an ideological veil thrown over it blanketing the past two decades in fairy dust and magic. I won’t profess that every child in my class clawed her way out of the D range to make it to the honor roll. That every broken spirit was miraculously repaired with a well-timed smile, a hug or a kind word. Trust me when I tell you, not every parent signed up to be my biggest cheerleader.

But even so, most of those twenty-two years were so very, very good. In many ways they were excellent. And in truth, those pruning years, the difficult ones, were the years I grew the most.

Personally

Professionally

Spiritually

And for that, I am forever grateful.

This summer I will pressing into a new space. After a few years of wrestling with the call God has placed on my life, I am stepping into new ministry.

Is being obedient scary?

Of course.

Is it going to be worth it?

My heart of hearts says, “Totally!”

My want-to-worry flesh says, “Hopefully.”

The Spirit within me calls out, “Trust Me.”

So now my life seems to be a simultaneous process of excitedly looking forward, while steadfastly trying to remain present to all the moments I’ve been given now.

As in today.

It’s tough. Trying to live the Matthew 6:34 principal rubs against my teacher planning, “think ahead” self. So I’ve had to make a conscious choice to remain present. To let tomorrow worry about itself.

Every day people ask me, “How many more days?”

And every day I can truthfully answer, “I’m not counting.”

I’m not counting, because I don’t want to cheat even one little one out of the best I have to offer.

I’m not counting, because even in these last few days I’m trying to soak up every bit of the bitter and sweet that is left to be savored.

Because I know that’s the real blessing of obedience. The awareness that it takes both the bitter and the sweet to experience the beauty of the journey.