A Thankful Tumbleweed

On December 6, 2017, I published my first blog post, The Rock Tumbler. In it I discussed how my plans and purposes had disappeared and dissipated. My children were leaving the nest, teaching hadn’t worked, and I was at a loss of what I was supposed to do.

The following month, I began the journey to get a master’s in school counseling through Liberty University’s online program. I was scared to say the least. The obstacles loomed over me. My age, debt, moves still in the works, I hadn’t had to take any courses in over 20 years! Fearfully and prayerfully, I made the commitment to take on this mountain. My husband pushing and encouraging me that I could do this.

Last weekend, the journey came to completion, and I want to take a few moments to express my gratitude. God put the idea and desire in my heart to work as a school counselor long ago as I taught students that needed help that I couldn’t give as a teacher. He confirmed this drive through scripture, through prayers, through circumstances, and through people.

I would never have taken the first steps without the support, encouragement, and proactive measures taken by my husband. I am so grateful for his patience and understanding as I disappeared into the studying zone of reading, research, and writing. He kept me from dissolving into fearful and tearful inaction more times than I can count.

I am grateful for the many people, friends, teachers, and colleagues who encouraged me all along the way. Many heard my hesitant, far-away dreams, and told me they thought counseling would be a good fit. I tucked those words into my heart, each one like a layer of sheer colored ribbon placed one over another until there was a bold hue I couldn’t ignore. Other students, the ones who were going through the classes while working full-time, parenting young children, and had other responsibilities earned my respect for the hard work they demonstrated. I used their examples to press on, and I am so grateful for those friendships, even if they were limited to a week long intensive course.

And then there are my professors. When I started the program, I entered into a late registration class. I had to take what I called a “remedial writing class” for master’s students, and I felt so behind and ill-equipped. I fought panic as I struggled with the format of online courses, of fitting all the coursework, practicum, and internships into a tight schedule. I looked at the amount of work, and I almost choked, thinking how will I ever be able to get all of this done, and done well. My professors were sensitive, attentive to my many emails, and offered wise counsel. Many of them shared their own personal stories and struggles with me, a sort of personal disclosure designed for relevant encouragement. And the professors at Liberty, they pray for you. I learned to trust what they had to say.

Last weekend was graduation weekend. Instead of attending the ceremony at Liberty University, I joined my family in attending my daughter’s graduation from Virginia Commonwealth University. That, on Mother’s Day weekend, was an incredible bookend for the last few years. I am grateful for my children, for the ways they supported and encouraged me to pursue this degree. My son stayed with me and watched me push through as he finished high school and started community college. My daughter and I were able to appreciate each other’s struggles as we faced the college version of “senior-itus”, final deadlines, and looked for jobs.

We are about to move again, the third time in four years, hence the tumbleweed. I have a job lined up, and I am still under tight deadlines with many things out of my control. Almost three years later, I know I don’t need to panic. I can go back to the verses in that first post, and remember the ways God has been faithful. When I started this blog, I felt lost and directionless, without a purpose. Is this the end of the blog? I don’t know. It has been in many ways a public journal of this empty nesting process. But this change feels bigger and more than a life stage transition.

God knows what He has planned next. May we continue to trust Him with all our unknowns.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (NIV).

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (NIV).

The Rock Tumbler

Changes hurt.  Unexpected changes are especially prone to cause fear, anxiety, confusion, and doubt.

I thought I knew what I was supposed to do at this point in my life.  I was prepared for it.  I worked out and prepared my timeline as young as 17 years old.  I worked out that when my children were grown and responsible enough to not need me at home full-time, I would begin my teaching career.  Texas offered a life-long license, and it would be okay that I would start later.  But, it hasn’t worked out the way I planned.

God is doing something; changing what I expected to happen, and I am fighting against fear, anxiety, confusion, and doubt.  I want to trust God.  I really do.  He knows I like to plan.  He knows I need some sort of road map to feel like I know where I’m going and what I’m doing to feel a sense of security, even if I don’t know where I will be.  My security and comfort has been in that plan.

One of my friends suggested I read “Wait and See” by Wendy Pope.  She and several other friends are in a similar place of being almost Empty Nesters.  I didn’t get the book at first because I’ve spent my whole life in wait and see moments.  Then one morning, I was being completely honest with God about how I wanted to trust Him, but it was kind of hard because I felt so in the dark.  I was grieving over the loss of not only one major purpose, but also the second purpose of teaching which I had been patiently waiting to happen over the course of 20 years.

He reminded me of an activity I had done with my most recent class of 3rd graders.  A student brought in a rock tumbler and the materials to produce actual polished rocks.  I was more than happy to find a way for us to make it work.  Reading through the instructions, I was surprised at how many weeks it would take, the different grades of grit that had to be used, and at how slowly the tumbler turned.  We proceeded to find a place where the loud tumbling wouldn’t interfere with the class and dutifully followed the plan.  We barely had enough time to finish before the end of school.  The class and I were thrilled at the results of the polishing.  Each student got to take a shiny rock home.

God, in His gentle way, reminded me that although I may not see the changes, that although it is painful and slow, He is working.

Now, as I am reading the book, “Wait and See,” I feel more hope and some structure to the work God is doing.  Sometimes it is quiet, sometimes loud, and sometimes the grit has to be changed to work on smoothing the rough edges even more.  I am waiting to see what He has planned.  As God breaks off the rough edges and polishes me, it still hurts as I feel the grating at times, but I am willing to endure patiently.  I can more easily trust Him and His promise knowing the result will show more of Him in me.

rock-tumbler

O Lord, I will honor and praise your name,  
    for you are my God.
You do such wonderful things!
    You planned them long ago,
    and now you have accomplished them.     Isaiah 25: 1

The Lord will work out his plans for my life—
    for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.
    Don’t abandon me, for you made me.         Psalm 138:8

For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.    Ephesians 2:10