The last several months I have been in search of what the second half of my life maybe will look like. I’v gone back in time to understand my strengths and weakness along the way of my career. It has given me insight. I have prayed and asked God to direct me and to open and close doors. I am graduating with a number of friends this year. We’ve all talked about what’s next. Many of us need to work, at least part-time. So of course, substitute teaching is a viable option.
One thing however that I’ve discovered is that I’ve never been a ‘wing it’ type of person. I’m not exactly what you would call ‘flexible’. I feel the job of substitute teaching is best for a person that can go with the flow, a bit more than I am. So I have decided that I will substitute only in the building that I have coached and taught in for the last twelve years. I also want to give my calendar to my friends, so that they know that these are the only days that I am willing to come.
I also plan to still teach in the university program that I have worked hard to build. It is not a program for the faint of heart. It is an intensive program that examines and produces leaders in the field of literacy education. I am humbled to a teacher in this amazing program.
I have been exploring a new job at my church and I signed a contract to work part-time just a week ago. It also was a rigorous process, getting this position. Just a few facts about our church…we are called a ‘mega-church’. 35 years ago when we started in a movie theater we grew faster than lightning. At that time there were only a few Christian churches bigger than Willow Creek. Many were critical at the time. It was a place that we could bring anyone that was curious. Our music, drama and teaching were second to none. The daughter of our pastor recently wrote about what it was like to grow up at Willow…she has become an amazing author and speaker. But of course, when something grows quickly there are always problems along the way. A couple of bumpy roads were size and leadership capacity. Back then were all in our early twenties. And one thing I know from having three twenty somethings…the brain is not fully functioning until age twenty-five.
So fast forward thirty-five years, obviously we stayed, grew stronger in our faith and raised our children at this place. Some of you, who know me maybe wonder, did you ever miss being a part of a traditional type of church. For many years, I really didn’t. We got involved in small groups early on and it satisfied our personal need for connection…until the ‘crazy’ year which I call adolescence. My husband coached three seasons, my children were active, I worked full-time. We became only Sunday attenders because we couldn’t squeeze anything more into our ‘during the week routine’. And we really were okay with that. On Sunday we could sit in the same place, week after week, shake hands with people at the designated time and we were good…until….the mass exodus of children away at college. Suddenly we felt alone in our mega-church. I craved and even missed so many things about the small church I grew up in.
Three years ago, a friend, that I shared the bleachers with from our high school asked if we would be interested in this ‘new thing’ at church…making the ‘big church feel small’. So a spirited, woman, leader who was leading this new charge introduced herself to us. We were a bit reticent at first because there had been many attempts through the years to get this community thing right. But gradually we began to love this ‘section’ community. It is an absolutely genius concept, because if you are a church attenders, you might notice something…everyone alway sits in the same spot. Our church is massive in scale…main floor, mezz and upper deck. Each section has from 200-300 seats in it, the perfect mid-sized community. Every week there are new people who come to our church…we welcome everyone. The section community and events are orchestrated by the Section Leader. This is my new job. Of course we have a fabulous ‘core team’ of people in every section that is devoted to serving as well. The mid-size community is so important, because some people would like to know many people, but aren’t ready to jump into a small group just yet. It has been what our church has needed for many years. Just like in the beginning, it is so exciting to be a part of something that is so ground-breaking. I LOVE MY CHURCH!
So just a bit more about how my life seems to always cycle back. Though I love literacy and reading and writing workshop for many, many years, I believe in ‘building a classroom’ and school wide community is even more essential. Children thrive in an atmosphere where they are known and trust those around them. They need to feel freedom to experiment, to use their creativity when they read and write. The sky is the limit on learning in an environment like this. I have very intentionally built community every single day, in every classroom I have been in for the last fifteen years.
So it is with a full heart and buckets of joy that I start this new phase of my life. I will give it my all and serve my God who sees my every need and blesses me beyond belief.