Ladies and gentlemen, I am about to participate in an experiment. After two years of limited part-time employment, I am gearing up for the next level of engagement.
As you may be aware, from 2005 to 2014 I was a full-time teacher and administrator at a small private high school in St. Louis, MO. For at least seven of those years I was a very hard-charging, responsible faculty member who worked long hours both at school and at home. I managed that position while being married to a seminary student turned mission-planting pastor and parenting three teenagers. It was a very busy life full of challenges and rewards.
When chronic illness started to impact my effectiveness in that position, my husband and I began to watch and pray for God to open a path to something different. This blog began when God answered our prayers and transplanted us in Ann Arbor where he has been serving as the Dean of Students at a small Christian university for the past three years.
When I joined him two years ago, I rested for six months and then began to experiment with different levels of employment. I started with occasional private tutoring. I added a summer ‘internship’ at an educational agency before transitioning to adjunct instruction coupled with private tutoring. I’ve been doing well for the past year balancing those two positions. I have taught a few hours a week in the classroom while supporting several private students that I meet in homes, in libraries, or in coffee shops. I’ve loved this combination. So, I’m continuing it this fall — at the next level.
Starting next Monday I will have three sections of college composition. (All the writing instructors in the room just gasped.) Now, to be fair, two of those sections are small at just 12-13 students each. The third section is a more average-sized class of twenty-one. So, do your math and you will find that I am going to have 46 composition students. That’s a solid load. Most English teachers would say, “That’s fabulous! What a joy to have forty-six writing students!” (My last year in St. Louis, a staffing issue created a situation where I had about 80 writing students!) And, indeed, I am thrilled. I am also thrilled that entering my second year as a private tutor, I have a solid student base that easily yields 8-10 hours of tutoring per week. God has indeed engineered a sweet gig for me.
However, I am a little anxious. My health is more stable than it has been in close to four years. With the help of my medical team I have eliminated biologic and anti-inflammatory medications. That’s right; I take nothing for pain! I am also currently weaning off the anti-depressants that I started taking seven or eight years ago. I walk, do Pilates, practice yoga, and get in the water regularly. I see a physical therapist and a chiropractor, avoid gluten and dairy, and am following my doctor’s instructions for taking homeopathic and nutritional remedies. I’m doing all the things, yet I still have a measure of pain in my hips, neck, and back. I still have psoriasis. I still have chronic eye issues. I still get knocked down if I do too much.
So how much is too much?
That’s why this fall is an experiment. Can I teach forty-six students in the classroom and meet with a handful outside of the classroom without spending every weekend in bed? Will I still fit in exercise? physical therapy? time with friends? time with family? What will happen if something unexpected pops up — an out-of-state emergency, a family crisis, a family celebration? I don’t know. Have I created a schedule that allows for these variables? We’ll see.
I do know that the success of this semester is more likely if I continue to practice the disciplines that I have re-discovered in this time of stillness — Bible study, blogging, prayer. It seems I struggle to fit them in, when in truth, they are the most impactful moments of my day. Writing the prayer reminders on my mirror and my fridge is a help, but I still need to choose to act on those prompts and actually pray. My devotional materials sit out in plain sight, but I have to move toward them and take the time to engage each day. My blog is constantly percolating in my mind and begging to be let out through my fingers, and when I allow it the space and time, I become aware of all that God is working inside of me. When I do these three things — prayer, Bible study, and blogging — I feel centered and purposeful. I feel at peace.
So, on Monday, I’ll step feebly forth. I won’t try to kick any butts or take any names, I will just show up and see what God has in store in this next chapter.
“Do not be afraid, little flock,
for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.