Yesterday was the last day of school, and today was the last official day of this year for teachers. The past week has been an especially heavy and emotional one in many ways. So many thoughts swirled around my mind as I began nearing the end of my first year of teaching, including what might be the perfect way to make it special enough to show these kids how much I've grown to love their little hearts. Come to find out, there just isn't the perfect way to bring such a big year to such a final conclusion. I feel like I've gone through this past year often feeling like it would never come to an end, then it did so very suddenly. And it has been quite sad. Experiencing the tears of the little girls in my class was almost more than I could take. It was really hard, but quite sweet too, knowing that God gave me the opportunity to love on these specific children for such a time as this. Having a few parents tell me that I had made a difference in the lives of their children is absolutely all I need to hear to peacefully and joyfully surrender this past year, and move forward to what's ahead.
I do think it will take a little while for me to release and process it all. The process of packing up all my things and saying good-bye to all the teachers as well was also quite a surreal experience. For me, after the past 2 years of consistently experiencing significant change and newness in my life, in many ways I feel like I'm starting over yet again. But in this very moment God is reminding me that his mercies are new every morning and I have to keep trusting, believing he wants the absolute very best for me. And that through all of this, as crazy exhausting as it may be mentally, emotionally, and physically, he is doing a good work in me, and he has a beautiful plan in store. That does not always mean comfort, consistency and predictable security. (Though that elusive dream is always nice!)
Last week as I was wrestling through this refining process of growing a heart that ruthlessly trusts, it seemed like God gently drew my attention to him, and all of the sudden I was struck with a thought. I am constantly putting so much pressure on myself to trust perfectly and I think I often feel that until I do, God won't fully be pleased or glorified. Of course God alone knows I will never even be able to trust perfectly here on earth, and perhaps He just wants me to draw near to him, to know him as deeply as he intended, and find freedom and joy in how absolutely trustworthy he is. Such a different perspective. Yet once again, I'm reminded...it's not about me, it is always and only about him. This very fact should relieve me in the deepest way, because he is the very one who made me, and absolutely no one could love me more.
In my classroom I learned how effective saying, "Look at me," was to my students before I asked them a question or told them something important. It was so funny tonight when all of a sudden I imagined God quieting my crazy mind with a gentle leading to "Look at me," so he could get my attention, look me in the eyes, and remind me once again, that he is always for me.
Karen Kingsbury has written the sweetest book called, "Let me Hold You Longer." It is all about how so often with children we commemorate their "firsts," but we don't always acknowledge all the little "lasts." Like the last time your child runs into your arms, the last time your child is small enough to hold, the last time you read your favorite book together, or the last time they ask you to chase them and catch them just so they can be tickled to tears. I was reminded of it this past week and especially yesterday, as I found myself saying to the kids, "I can't believe this year is truly over. There is still so much I want us to do together!" Then I began to think of how many little "lasts" I never acknowledged or truly realized, as I was in the process of being caught in the busyness of each day's details. That is, until yesterday, when the whole day my mind was thinking, this is the last time for doing "this" or "that" with these kiddos. The last time we will meet together for morning meeting, share our stories and laugh together. The last time we will sing our favorite silly songs as a whole class. The last time we will play kickball all together, and the last time I will have each of them in one room to share how deeply I want them to be kind in life, and how much I want them to stay friends and encourage one another, even when they get into different classes and make new friends.
It was definitely special, and obviously intense. Especially for me personally because when I build a relationship and invest in a life, it is forever. In my heart there is no end and it will never be forgotten. And I have learned lessons that will last a lifetime. I am so very thankful for this year-long process of truly becoming a teacher. I feel like I can confidently tell people now that I am a teacher. Not because I currently have a job; but because in my heart it is who I have become; and the fruit of who it's made me to be will forever flow out no matter what I do.
This is the first day of the rest of my life.