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The SmartBoard in my classroom is crooked.

I noticed it at the beginning of the school year, but every day since then has been like GO! and I totally forgot.

Now that I’m looking around my room on the last full day I’ll be in it, I realize that it’s still a little un-level. I wonder if that’s why I could never get the projected image to line up correctly?

I’m going to be back here for 4 weeks to teach summer school, but otherwise I’m done as a fulltime teacher. Bronce and I have decided that it’s best for me to be home with Eleanor and I shared that news with my school a few weeks ago. In turn, they offered me a part-time job in the building as the Title 1 Math Coach. It’s a position that’s still being defined since it will look largely different from that role in the past, but it’s exciting.

I’ll miss my students. I’ll miss my classroom. But most of all I’ll miss the team of teachers I worked with this year. From our off-beat humor and flat-out ridicule of each other… shared frustration over students with bad home situations and bad attitudes… the hours of laughter from the collaboration room (seriously, how did we ever get anything done? Oh, wait… we didn’t.)… the insane inside jokes… furious Words With Friends competitions during meetings and assemblies… these people have been my friends and partners in crime for the last 10 months and I’ve loved every minute of it.

Of course next year won’t look like this one anyway… things like schedule changes and room assignments and all the other teacher-related variables will make it look much different. I’ll even be able to eat lunch with the team on Tuesdays and Thursdays (uh, sorry new math teacher… guess I hope you’ll like me…), but that won’t be the same either. In some ways, I guess we all have to deal with that change from year to year since it’s inevitable that it won’t all be the same. And truly, they’ll get along just fine without me.

It’s going to be hard to let go of this experience. Even as I my heart beats fast at the idea of being home with Eleanor 3 days a week to love on her and read to her and be the one comforting her cries, I realize I’ll miss this place and this family, too.

I could stand beside the SmartBoard, put my shoulder into it, and wedge that thing into the proper position… but I won’t. It’s someone else’s nuisance now.

Wait Upon The Lord

Alright, girls. If you’re walking through the book of Esther with me this summer in Bible Study, I confess that I’m about to completely ruin the ending of the Session 5 video. I’m sorry! But I just finished it and it brought me to tears and cries of joy. I can’t hold back! In fact, I didn’t even hit “stop” on my DVD player, I just walked out of the den with my workbook and Bible and came straight to the computer to journal while it is fresh.

So Beth’s been teaching (in the Beth Moore study in Esther, for those of you who don’t know what I’m studying) this week on the importance of timing. And she closes the session with the verse Isaiah 40:31. Here’s the New American Standard Version…

Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will (B)mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

It’s that “Wait upon the Lord” part that’s so stinking incredible to me. To paraphrase what Beth said, she made the exasperated statement “What’s more exhausting than waiting?!” Oh, how I know that! I’ve been waiting on finding a job, getting an interview, going to the interview (how stressful is the day of the interview? Those hours before are just excruciating!), waiting to hear back from the interview… did I get the job? (that’s the place I’m at right now!). It’s all so exhausting.

Bronce gets home from work in the evening and he’ll ask me what I’ve done all day and I don’t quite know how to tell him that the WAITING has been so hard! It’s making me tired! Like, seriously, mid-way through the day I’m just so TIRED and need a nap or something! This morning I woke up at 9:30. Now, part of that is just laziness, but it’s certainly even weirder when you consider I was in bed by 11pm last night. I’m just so tired from the waiting!

You know, I have friends in so many different “places” figuratively right now. I have friends who are pregnant and waiting on baby-related stuff… like finding out the sex of the baby or waiting for the kid to just get BORN already! I also have friends who are desperately trying to get pregnant and waiting monthly to find out if they’ve had success. I have other friends who are waiting for different test results and things to come back. I have friends who are waiting to be married – who are either in relationships or not, but just hanging on for the day that will happen for them. So I feel like in many ways I’m surrounded by others who are also waiting for something to happen.

So when I read a verse like Isaiah 40:31 and it talks about waiting… and having STRENGTH, I want to look around and see who those people are who feel strong. Because I sure don’t! I’m tired! And most of these friends who are waiting would certainly be able to say “I’m tired of waiting for…” or that they’re also just physically exhausted from the wait. But how does that sync with the verse that says we’ll actually build up our strength?

The more we wait, the weaker we feel. But here’s why, girls! When we’re waiting on the THING, we’ll be exhausted. Look back at the verse… it says “When we wait on the LORD” we will have strength! That’s the difference!

Right now I’m waiting to hear back about a job interview from Monday – my DREAM job teaching Math in one of the best high schools in the whole blasted county. And I can sit around, waiting to hear back about the THING – the job. Or I can rest, trusting on the LORD and knowing that if it’s not this, it will be something else!

Another point from the video that gives me encouragement is that “God is never inactive.” Meaning, when He calls on us to wait, there’s a flurry of activity going on in Heaven. The longer He waits, the more He’s working! Yes, Lord, may it be so!

Habakkuk 2:3 says (in the NIV) “For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” (italics mine)

And that last part, that crucial ending of the verse, when read in The Message, says “If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time.” How cool is that! “It will come right on time.” I love that! I think I want that tattooed on my forehead… or maybe on my hand so I can see it easier. But still, how awesome is that verse?

So what am I really waiting on? It’s a hard thing, but I really want to trust and lean on the Lord right now and know that HE is working something out. Otherwise, if I don’t get the job this week, I’ll be devastated and even MORE exhausted. But if I’m waiting on the Lord, then bad news won’t tear out the ground underneath me, but I’ll have spent those days living out the rest of Isaiah 40:31… I’ll “gain new strength” and “run and not get tired” and “not become weary.”

Praise you, Lord, for this encouragement right when I need it! Let me trust in You, let me wait for YOU, let me know that You are in control and You have the best plans laid. Let me trust that You and Your angels are working out something mighty in the heavens, and let me trust that if this job doesn’t go as I want it to, it’s only because You’ve got something better in store.

As I posted on my Facebook recently, if I only trust God when life is easy, I am living in conditional faith. Do I trust Him when life is hard and I’m faced with something fearful? “Perfect love casts out fear” 1 John 4:18 – Thanks be to God!

Things I Don’t Need… Thanks.

Losing your job is such a weird place to be. And right now, it’s not a terribly unique place to be. After all, those of us who have been laid off are counted by the thousands and reported on the evening news daily. Every one of you has been touched by the unemployment crisis this year, either having been laid off yourselves, knowing a close friend or family member who has suffered that fate, or you may even have waited by the phone for “the call” to find out the status of your job and received good news.

Unfortunately, many of us did not receive good news on the end of that call, but it doesn’t stop people from opening up their big mouths to barf heaps of advice on our well-worn shoes. To be clear, I was on the opposite side of this phenomenon a year ago when one of my best friends and coworkers was laid off from our Big Pharma company. Looking back I remember trying to maintain our relationship by calling her daily and attempting to keep her up to date on the craziness she no longer had to deal with. Did she care? No. Was I able to understand that? Nope.

Now that I’m on the receiving end of these phone calls, I realize how incredibly stupid these conversations can be. There is absolutely no way for someone else to know how hard it is to lose my job… yet at the same time I have these moments of sanity where I can look back and actually be glad for the lay-off. Still, no level of sanity and understanding makes me ready to accept that phone call when you’re complaining about how frustrating that same job is. Thanks, but sitting at home, eating Ben & Jerrys by the pint, and scouring the internet while desperately seeking a job doesn’t exactly put me in the position to feel bad for you and your job woes.

So today this jerky guy came to take away my company car. In the process of finalizing the paperwork, he attempted to “encourage” me with tales of all the other reps whose cars he’s taken… and the fabulous new jobs they have. Dude, you just confirmed I don’t even have another car as a backup and you have the nerve to tell me those stories? Not. Helping.

Going back to my friend who was laid off last summer… Now that I’m on the receiving end of this, I know I made some monumental blunders in how I dealt with that challenging situation. Thankfully, we’re still as close as ever, but I think that’s largely due to her ability to forgive the multiple times I unknowingly put my exceptionally large feet into my even bigger mouth. (Yes, that’s a line from Friends.) For that I’m grateful. And I’ll be forgiving of the stupid stuff other well-intentioned people say to me, but there are some comments that just must not be repeated.

So, in light of that I’ve decided to create a list of THINGS I DON’T NEED while looking for a job. And yes, these have ALL happened to me, most have happened more than once, and in amazing displays of thoughtlessness many of these have been combined single conversations resembling a Blazing Tour of Impudence.

1. Don’t call me to complain about your new territory. Especially if said territory consists of MY OLD TERRITORY that you took over when I was laid off.

2. Don’t complain about your company car. Don’t do it. Just shut up.

3. If I wanted to watch the evening news and hear stories about the thousands of people out of a job, I would do it on my own. It’s not helpful for you to call me from your company car, on your company phone, say “I understand what you’re going through” and clarify that your genius understanding comes from a nightly news special. You do NOT understand and that is Not. Helping.

4. “I’m praying for you.” Don’t say it unless you really are. Otherwise it’s just an empty platitude. I believe in prayer as much as – if not more than – any other person, but don’t say it if you don’t mean it and aren’t really going to do it.

5. “Wow, it must be nice to have all that free time.” It would be nicer to have a job, thanks. And if you’re so jonesin’ for free time, take some vacation.

6. “Sometimes I wish they’d laid me off, too.” Why would you even say that to me? Yeah, collecting severance is nice, but you do realize that ends at some point, right? Then what? If you know of some other super-fantastic job out there, share it with ME. You know, the one who actually NEEDS a job!

7. Laid off or Fired? Someone posted this to my Facebook wall (not asking me the question, but clarifying how annoying it is to be asked that question), and while no one has directly asked me that question, I completely understand the sentiment. I am very quick to explain to new folks that I was laid off before they could even wonder if the other were true.

8. “The grass is always greener!” “Where there’s a will, there’s a way!” Gee, thanks for the practical advice and astounding show of moral support. What do these things even mean?!

9. “So have you found something else yet?” Don’t you think I might have mentioned that? I’m not one of those strange people who hangs on to good news until the last possible second. If I found a job I’d probably be doing it… not updating my facebook status 17 times a day.

I’m sure there are more that could be added to this list. In fact, I’m positive in the next three days some well-meaning soul will make the dumbest comment I’ve heard yet. But for now, there’s the list.

So what can you do when a friend or family member loses their job? Be supportive! Understand that they’re suffering a kind of loss. It’s not a death – I realize that! – but there are some similarities to how it’s handled. Such as, a time of anger, a time of denial, a time of stunned silence. There are stages to the grief of job loss just as there are stages to losing a loved one. And sometimes, whether or not you loved the job has nothing to do with it. It’s just a painful mess, truly.

Will I or Won’t I?

Will. It’s a tough thing to get into any discussion about God’s Will. But I’m faced with it head-on and I can’t seem to shake the knowledge that He’s up to something and I’m just floundering around.

So, almost 4 weeks ago I was laid off. I had been hearing rumors that some changes were coming, but I don’t think any of us had any idea how big it was going to be. J&J laid off 1000 people from their pharmaceutical divisions. Seeing as I’ve only been with the company for 6 months, it makes sense that I got the axe. Well, it makes sense, but that doesn’t make it not hurt.

Just six months prior I made the decision to leave a 5-year career at Merck for the offer at J&J. I remember at the time not having a clear instinct on what God wanted me to do. Staying with Merck provided stability but the offer to move provided a generous pay increase and a much smaller (and closer to Knoxville) territory. I prayed a ton about it and never felt like God was sending me in any specific direction. So… I made a decision. It was one of those “well, He gives us a brain, right?” moments, and I figured I’d just use my brain.

So looking back, was that the right decision? I don’t know. I mean, it stinks to be laid off. But I wasn’t too crazy about my old territory with Merck, and not driving 2 hours to the ends of the earth was a great change of pace for the last few months. And… God’s really been doing a work in my heart since I took the job at J&J. Which is kinda where I was headed with this (already long) post anyway!

So sometime around January I felt a nudging in my spirit that I was totally unable to ignore. I went to training with the new position and had a blast helping out some of my fellow newbies. While there, the trainers commented that I was a good teacher and should consider returning to the training department to further my career at some point. I had no interest in doing that, but the idea of it awoke a longing in my heart that had long since been put to rest… to be a teacher! God quickly fanned the flames of that long-ago idea, and over the last few months I’ve felt a direct calling from Him to look into the teaching profession.

So bringing that forward to the recent layoff, I had already been praying that God would give me some clear definition of what He had for my future. I specifically prayed that he would open and close doors clearly for me. I didn’t want a repeat of my job change in the fall, where I was uncertain of His Will. So I prayed that if He wanted me to teach that I would know it for. sure. And… then I lost my job.

Which, as many people pointed out to me, was kinda exactly what I had been asking for! It didn’t make it less painful (seriously, it ain’t fun to lose your job. ever!), but I did feel like God was stirring some stuff together. Then within two days I got a phone call and was asked to interview for another pharmaceutical job.

What now? That was confusing! So, does God want me to turn down this opportunity or look into it? Part of the “gonna be a teacher” plan requires me to go back to school and get licensed… which costs money… so was God providing this job to help me pay for that schooling?

Thoroughly confused, I followed through and applied for the job. Truly, I think I’ve been scared about this whole process. It’s crazy to think of leaving a job I love and have done WELL for over 5 years to go teach. We’re talking about a serious cut in pay and benefits (my car! I’ll loose my car!) and a huge life adjustment. BUT I also have great peace when I consider what the future may look like.

So anyway, I followed through on the job offer. NAILED the first interview, kicked serious butt on the second interview… and all along I’m just crying out to the Lord… Either give me this wonderful job, or shut this door! Completely! Firmly! Totally! Let there be no questions about Your Will for my life!

So yesterday was “the day” – either I was going to get a phone call that said I had a job, or I would hear nothing at all (how harsh is that? No rejection phone call!). And… I heard nothing. So. God has shut that door. I grieved a little bit last night, not over the job loss, but just understanding that being in His Will sometimes hurts. That manager rejected me, but the Lord of the universe loves me and is protecting my heart. He’s doing a good thing for me. It may not feel good to me right now, but He’s protecting me.

I read a quote in a book a few days ago that jumped off the page and smacked me in the eyes.
“God’s love for and protection of us are always consistent with His will for us – and His will for us is always consistent with what is best, not only for us, but also for a fallen world that He is always trying to rescue.” – Craig Parshall

Oh yes, God is good.

And I’m gonna be a teacher!!