Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What a Difference a Year Makes

One year ago, my life changed.  Not because of anything I did or planned, but because God set my feet on a new path.  One that I never would have chosen, and one that I wouldn't have believed I was capable of walking.  One that still scares me to death at times.  He called me to teach.

You see, until one year ago today, I was my own boss: Photographer Extraordinaire. I was in charge of my workload and my free time.  I had a sizable and fiercely loyal list of clients, and new inquiries came in weekly.  Every session simultaneously gave me butterflies and the warm fuzzies.  I cannot explain how much I have thrilled at being a satellite orbiting so many families as they grow and change.

Being a creative soul, this job wasn't a job, it was my dream.  How many people can honestly joyfully say that they love everything about their job? That they get excited to go to work?  And on top of that, all of the joy that I have ever gotten from being a photographer isn't mine to hoard away for myself...I get to give it away tenfold!  Those images that I capture, while heartwarming for me, can never give me the same joy as they give to the families for whom I captured them.   

Before I tell you more about this new path I'm on, let me go back a bit.  For many years, I've been desperately craving a ministry.  The aching in my heart to serve God in a tangible way kept growing and growing.  When God gave me the gift of photography (because it is a precious gift, and all good gifts come from above!), I jumped the gun a little and assumed that He intended for my business to be my ministry.  And it was, sort of, for almost five years.  I prayed with and for my clients, and I freely spoke about my love for God and our desperate need for Christ in our lives.  I felt specific conviction about my pricing, so I kept my services well under the industry standards so that beautiful family portraits were within reach for those who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford them.  All good things, and all well-intended.

But I realize now how photography had become a source of pride for me.  And I also now see how very small and shallow any ministry opportunities within that field had been for me.  So God placed His mighty hands on either side of my head, and turned it. 

One year ago, under crazy circumstances, my son's school found itself wanting for a long-term substitute teacher in the middle school English department.  Since I'm that maniacal homeroom mom that more or less lives at the school running errands or subbing, they asked me.  Without hesitation, I said yes.  To three solid, 7:30am-3:30pm weeks of teaching middle school language arts and literature.  Any sane person, after subbing for kindergarten on several occasions, would have immediately invented a plethora of excuses as to why they could not perform such a task.  I didn't, though.  I said yes.  Immediately.  Without looking at my FALL PHOTOGRAPHY CALENDAR.  I just said yes.

You want to know how I know this is God's hand in my life?  Well, I've had 365 days to ponder this whole thing, and the more hindsight I get, the more I believe it was Him.  That calendar that was booked solid every week of the year, but especially during the fall season..?  It was bare during those first three weeks before Christmas break that I committed to without even thinking to check for prior commitments.  COMPLETELY WIDE OPEN.  Even on the weekends.  People, that in and of itself is a miracle of Red Sea proportions for a busy photographer any time between September and December.

Second, they asked me to teach English, the subject I love more than anything, and am independently passionate about without even being paid.  Seriously.  Third through hundredth, every single thing between day one and today has fallen into place seamlessly as I've been working toward my official state certification.  All of my applications and paperwork for certification were accepted, I passed all of the required tests with flying colors, and I was easily readmitted back into college to start working on some professional instruction courses.  I'm not saying that it's been easy, but I feel like I'm walking a path that has been cleared for me ahead of time.  I still have to walk it, but there aren't all of the obstacles along the way that are on the paths we choose or make for ourselves.

More importantly than all of what I've already shared:  the ministry I've coveted for so long has literally been dropped in my lap.  I teach at an incredible Christian discipleship school, and not only am I allowed to share my faith in Christ with my students, but it's in my job description and contract that I have to!

These kids are the reason that I took a leap of faith and filled out the job application for a permanent teaching position on day two!  They stole my heart.  No, God stole my heart by showing me His children with a new set of eyes.  Before a year ago, I purposefully avoided "the big kids" because I didn't think I could relate to them in a meaningful way.  But once I spent a couple of days among their kind, I realized how incredibly complex and wonderful tweenagers can be!  The more time I spend with these kids, the more I love them. Like, real love.  It sounds so simple and plain, but I feel like God reveals Himself to me through them and through my interactions with them.

And the more I get to know each of them and their stories, the more I understand how immense this ministry truly is.  I get to weave the Lord and His Word into everything I do.  And I get to be real with these kids.  I get to know them, and I get to pray for and with them.  When I hear some of their stories, I'm amazed, and at times, brokenhearted.  I don't see "big kids" any more; I see young hearts that need Jesus Christ's healing and redeeming power living within them.  I try my best to live my life as an example for them of a godly woman whose heart belongs to Christ.  And when I mess up, I get to humble myself and show them how to handle human failures.  Most of all, I get to love them.

So here I am, a whole year into teaching, and I can honestly say that I love it more than I ever imagined possible. Some days are really exhausting, and many are totally frustrating, but most are exhilarating and challenging in a fresh, new way.  I'm still learning myself, and I struggle with loss of control and the pursuit of perfection, but I'm learning to lean on God and trust in Him to give me what I need, when I need it. It has all been a marvelous, head-spinning adventure figuring out the balance between my home life, my mom life, my friend life, my wife life, my teaching life, and my back-in-college-for-the-first-time-in-almost-fifteen-years life.  I know who's in charge of the scales, though, and He is trustworthy.