Monthly Archives: February 2016

Calling (or The Choice, Part 2)

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It was the Monday that I began to suspect a big change was a-brewin’. (I talk about that change here.) I started paying attention.

I listened with both ears to songs and people. I read the Scripture and essays more intentionally.diary-968592_1920.jpg

And I found, time after time, that I was being presented with small but priceless morsels of encouragement and direction.

And each time I heard a new message – or an old message in a new way – I wrote it down.

And each time I heard a new message, I was more convinced that God had a different plan for me.

And each time I heard a new message, I wondered just how soon I would be shown a new direction. A new calling.

I’m hoping for something more like a billboard than a post-it. I want to be knocked over the head with a 2X4. And, I want that evidence visible to another reliable person, as well. Someone like my husband, Tim, would be preferable.

If only something just showed up. Like a writing job offer. Or even just a retweet by a big-shot with lots of followers.

Okay, God. What is my mission? my calling? my next move?

Where is the open door?

What in the world do you want me to do now? Who am I to be?

And, He said, “You are a writer…

And a wife, mother, grandmom, friend, homeowner, daughter, shopper, helper, sister.

You’re just not a public school teacher anymore.”

Oh. Right. I am still all of those other people God called me to be. I am still called be the best I can be as each of those other Nancy’s: Nance or Mom or Meena (that’s my Grandmom name) or Mrs. Wolfe. Yes, I am.

I am called to serve God and people with love and sacrifice no matter what work, labor, or job I do. Whether I am an accomplished author on a best-seller list or a well-followed blogger who reaches hearts and minds on a global level – or Audrey’s Meena who speaks to her sweet young soul about kindness and patience. One day, I’m the very first customer/victim for the agonizingly slow rookie checker at Target. Another day, I’m unaware that the distracted bank teller said goodbye this morning to a family pet – or found out this morning that this branch is closing. Most days I just can’t even imagine.

I am called to serve God and live every single day in every single situation with diligence and kindness.

In For the Love, Jen Hatmaker speaks about “calling.” She describes it as “in many ways…a luxury for the privileged.” Think about this: There are countless inspired and faithful Believers all over the world who live hard lives. Lives I can’t even imagine. They don’t have options about education or job opportunities. They don’t have a choice about daily work or where they live. (Read more about The Choice here.) They get up early, take care of their families, thank God for His love, go to bed, and do it again tomorrow. They never agonize over this job or that house. They just live a worthy life in ordinary ways, following God’s call to live as He directs, with love, integrity, and desire for goodness. That’s their calling.

Truth be told, it’s everybody’s calling.

And it’s not that we don’t keep looking for and wondering about the next episode in our lives. And paying attention. The best way to find that next step is to have boots already on the ground. But frantic searching and gnashing of teeth are anxieties we manufacture in the name of finding God’s will. (There are over 25 verses in the Scripture about trusting God. He’s not kidding.)

So, I’ll keep my eyes and mind open. I’ll continue to pay attention and write down each new message – or each old message given in a new way. Each morsel of direction and encouragement.

And, to what God calls me to do next – maybe something I can’t even imagine – something that may take a moment or a lifetime – whatever it is, I’m ready to say “Yes.”

Everybody is complicated

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Since I’m now a retired teacher, many people have asked if I would be substituting.

That would be “No.”ivy-970535_1280

I already paid four years of those dues.

Subbing is definitely not my jam.

  • Getting called – or having to go online – at 6:00 a.m. to find out if you’re working that day. Hate it.
  • Working in a different classroom every day, with plans left by an overworked teacher who probably had to come in at 5 a.m. – in yoga pants and a hat, sweating and feverish – to write up plans and make copies and organize supplies and, and, and… Hate it.
  • Being considered either a fool or a b!%@h by students who don’t even know you. (You’re a fool if you fall for the tom-foolery, and you’re a b!%@h if you don’t.) Hate it.

But during those four long years of early wake ups, confused classrooms, and disrespectful students, I learned a lot. And the lesson I remember the most vividly is this: Everybody is complicated.

I worked in the small Wisconsin district in which we lived. There were 4 elementary schools, 1 junior high, and 1 high school, which included a day care center. I subbed at every one of those levels – from preschool to seniors. We saw a lot of each other, those students and I.

The high school was hard for me. Many of the students were taller than me. And wittier. And bolder.

Sometimes, bold showed up as soon as they walked through the classroom door. They’d turn around and announce to the hall, “HEY! WE GOT A SUB!” Or, “Oh, no, it’s Burton.” Or something under their breath with the unmistakable tone of an insult.

These responses were not directed at me personally; most students treated all subs equally, with either respect or disdain. But it hurt nonetheless.

Truth be told, I kept a score card of my own. Let’s just say that when certain students showed up, the adorable Nancy Kay moved to the back of the bus.

And it was usually those girls. Snippy little clique members who thought that anyone outside of their tiny circle of the Acceptable was an idiot. And even some of the Acceptables existed on the fringe: they were iffy from day to day. So, watch out, everybody. And make way.

Ugh. Why did they have to be so mean? Was it really their goal that everyone around them felt small and worthless? If so, they were stunningly successful.

Then one day…

I was assigned to be a teacher’s assistant in the daycare center. Yey! It was always fun to be with the Littles. Not easy, but fun.

The daycare center was also a preschool and served two purposes. It was open to community members, including the school staff,  who needed child care during school hours. And it was a clinical setting for high school students in the Home and Family classes. Students were required to work  at the center 2-3 days per week during study hall.

And, by “work,” their high school teacher meant to work. They assumed the position of a paid staff member. They kept a journal of their assignments and experiences. There were detailed guidelines. It was serious and not an easy “A.”

Okay, back to then one day… As I looked at the schedule for this particular day, my stomach did a little flip. For there, during the 9:45 – 10:35 time slot, were the names of three of them. The leading ladies, no less. Ugh.

I braced myself for eyerolls and sass.

They walked in together. They put their books down and quietly sat down on the carpet while the Director finished up the read-aloud. But within just a few seconds, the little ones noticed them.

Ka-BOOM! That room exploded with joy. Those snippy little snarky high school girls and sweet little 4-year-olds created a cloud of giggles and delight.

Just wow.

And for the next 45 minutes, I saw three young ladies sparkle and shine. The snip and snark had vanished.

What happened?

Same girls. Different setting… a setting in which their spirits were set free.

And this was not school vs party. Or chemistry vs the beach.

No. They were in two classrooms in which the expectations were set very high.

But there was magic in that preschool where I saw with my own eyes the very best of those girls. Those girls who could turn 50 minutes of math into endless misery. Those same girls who mysteriously turned into teachers and friends as they sat on the reading carpet.

We aren’t talking here about how the education system makes only round holes – no matter what your peg shape (although I could write volumes on that).

And we’re not talking about giving bad behavior a pass. Every teacher in every setting, formal education or not, has the clear obligation to nurture individuality while weaving lives of good moral fiber.

It’s not about “this generation” or that character building program or “what’s the policy on disrespect?”

This is about this: people are complicated.

Every single person we meet is chock full of quirks and talents, large and small, wild or tame, dark or light. Every soul is a labyrinth of rooms and closets, stairways, hallways, nooks, and crannies. Some have a basement, some an attic. Some souls are neat and tidy. Some, not so much. Most, a little of both.

Every single one is different, but one thing is true: the view through one small window will never reveal the whole of their soul. If we never take the time or energy to look past that one unpainted back room full of junk, well, shame on us.

People are complicated. And wonderful. And worth every single minute and ounce.

I praise you, God, because [we are all] fearfully and wonderfully made.
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Psalm 139:14 – modified by author.

So, tell me: Were you ever surprised by someone you thought you knew?

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