My Short Stint as a Preschool Teacher (or small faithful = big lovely)

Thursday the “Mother’s Day Out” preschool where I was working shut it’s doors permanently.  I hadn’t been there long, only 5 short weeks. I only started working there to make some extra money for our impending move.

So when they gathered the teachers this past Tuesday and told us they were shutting the program down,  I’m not sure if I felt relieved or sad. I suppose it was a mix of the two.  It had been a hard month of work, of learning the ropes, the politics and the kids.  And just when I thought I had a knack for it? It was over with a few quick words from the director.

I couldn’t help wondering what the point of my short stint as a preschool teacher had been.  Was I supposed to work there in the first place? Did I misread the plan?

Yet, this past week: God, with his wit and wisdom has been show me that longevity and notoriety has nothing at all with his ability to change lives.  He needs faithful hands for both the short and long term.

In my mind my time at the preschool was nothing extraordinary.  I’d simply gone to work, poured goldfish, changed diapers, read books and played blocks upon blocks.

But to God, I opened up a channel with which he could show love and grant grace.  A usable connection to affirm his worth and establish his kingdom in a simple preschool playroom.  And on our last day, several of my Mothers told me that I was a regular topic of dinner conversation, and a big part of why their kids wanted to come to school.

They’d noticed the change in their kids since I’d started and they were thankful to God that I showed up.

And now it was over, I said goodbye to those three year olds forever and watched their mothers walk them to the car.  Their age and the brevity of our time together assured me that my work and presence in their lives would soon be forgotten.  

biglovely

Yet, as I always do, I was completely underestimating God’s ability to use the scraps of my faithfulness in the big picture of his overarching plan.   I’m beginning to see that he can use the smallest acts of love and faithfulness to adjust the trajectory of a life forever.

And moreover I was believing in the lie that God is only working through the works of those who are receiving the highest accolades and notoriety, and since that wasn’t me I thought that my small faithfulness was unusable to him.  I worried that the work of my hands was nothing more than adequate effort, forever passed over in favor of lovelier choices.

So often we believe that only the big dogs make a difference, but it’s utter BS.  So what if you’re a small church, a little movement, an introverted youth worker or whatever your case may be?  The enemy is thrilled when we believe that small is insufficient, because it leads to doubt and so often surrender.

But we have to remember that everything in the world, even the big things, are comprised of small faithfulness and discouraging turn outs.  God uses the small works, the simple acts of showing up to bring about his purpose in the lives of his children.  And when his kids feel his love and affirmation the ripple effect is unpredictable and revolutionary.

So if your numbers are done
Your job is gone
The time seemed too short
The outcome wasn’t what you hoped for
You wonder if this is your calling or if it’s time to give up…

Don’t think it was for naught, God uses the work of your hands for his beautiful glory, and what more can we hope for when it comes to the fruit of our time?  God wants your faithfulness and sees it as every bit as lovely as that of the people your comparing yourself to.  

Your small faithful is big lovely, lets stop forgetting the God into whose hands we commit the works of our days.

Quilting my womanhood

One of my favorite modern theologians is Rich Mullins, I get this from my Dad, who I believe has coffee with Rich on a regular basis.  In my heaven they’re buds, don’t challenge my doctrine please and thank you.

One of my favorite quotes from Rich Mullins is this:  “I think, writing-wise, I am probably more of a quilter than a weaver because I just get a little scrap here and a little scrap there and sew them together.”

I adore the idea of quilting l and I’ve found that this quote rings true, not only for writing but  parenting, cooking, reading, self-image and marriage as well.

We truly are quilters, gathering scraps from each other and sewing them into the fabric of our lives, piecing together something entirely new.

I made my first quilt of sorts this past weekend, an easter skirt for Noelle. I cut and gathered scraps of fabric and pieced them together to make up the swirly bottom of the skirt.  I used some new patterns from the local quilt store and some leftovers from my rainbow suitcase of fabric, a huge old trunk full of scraps all lined up and waiting to be repurposed.

There is something magical about taking a little stack of squares and creating something harmonious, all the fabrics singing together like a choir.  Suddenly you take it off the machine and you’ve created something entirely new and original and completely whole.

It’s not “less than lovely” because it’s comprised of found materials, rather it’s more beautiful for the patchwork, more interesting for the hodgepodge.

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time thinking of my sense of womanhood as a quilt and reflecting on all the different pieces I’ve collected over the years.  Every session I spend in reflection leaves me a touch more thankful and inspired.

Growing up with an overwhelmed and depressed mom left me confused about it means to be a woman and to be honest, I didn’t want to be one.  I hid my body and balked at the though of someone referring to me as a woman rather than a girl.

I thought that womanhood may undo me, that any bumps and bruises would mar my heart for life.  I saw myself as weak and unworthy.

I remember the first time I consciously added a scrap to my quilt of womanhood. I was working at Asbury Seminary for two woman, both named Tammy. They were strong and lovely, brave and hilarious, gracious and intelligent.  They were both single and raising three kids after difficult divorces.  To my surprise they didn’t live their lives in despair, there wasn’t an ounce of bitterness, only a vibrant zest for life and God.

Since then I have been gathering scraps here and there, so many friends and bloggers have become unwitting mentors and spiritual mothers to me.

I’ve quilted the way my friend Sandy thoughtfully loves her people
The way my Aunts weave God into every conversation
The way my Grandma prays for her grandkids and gathers us as a close-knit family
Sarah Bessey’s gentle mothering
Rachel Held Evan’s brave quest to bring truth
Anne Bogel’s intentional take on life

The list doesn’t stop here, so many women have given me valuable lessons that I’ve sewed into my quilt, God has used so many of you to teach me what it means to be a fully alive daughter.

For too long I thought I was just a little sister copy-cat of better mothers, writers and women.  Always running behind them, doing what they’re doing, hoping to be notices and deemed acceptable.

quilt pic

This weekend as I gathered and stitched together the squares I realized that all fabric is woven from existing threads.  Nothing starts out whole, it’s woven from something else.  We are all quilters. This doesn’t makes us boring copy cats, this practice of scrap gathering is a beautiful practice indeed.

As we gather and stitch, the pieces becomes so many and the pattern so wild that each quilt is something entirely new and breathtaking.

A daughter living out her God-woven gifts is one of the most lovely experiences on earth.

Through our mothering, singing, painting, doctoring, writing, cooking, teaching, quilting we bring God to life through our hands and he is truly worshipped.

Suddenly money, square feet, job titles, marital statuses and dress sizes don’t define us but rather the very act of glorifying God through the fabric of our souls.

You are not a copy cat, we’re all quilts friends and we were made to give and take scraps from each other, to mentor each other by simple proxy.

You are a part of my quilt and I am flattered beyond words for the gift of your scraps.

Tell me about your quilt, who do you love to gather scraps from?  

Remain

I spend a large part of my brain space analyzing my life and beating myself up for the little ways in which I fall short on a daily basis.  I calculate how many calories I consumed, how many vegetables our family ate, how much money is left in our gas budget, how many episodes of word world we watched and how faithfully I’ve been keeping up with my YouVersion bible reading plan.

I use a planner, a chalkboard, a spreadsheet, an iPhone ap, blogs, books, eating plans, vitamins parenting strategies all in an effort to find the one thing that will make it all click.  The one perfect strategy I can swear by  to hold things together.

Something that will bring us health and joy, bring me energy and clarity, patience and perseverance.

Is it in all about counting gifts and choosing joy in the little things?  Would it all be okay ig I gave up TV in favor of more reading and or daily walks?

Should I do a strict Paleo diets?  Or opt for the micronutrient right option of Juicing?

What can I do to make me a better writer?  A more engaged Mother?  A faithfully prayerful Wife? A stricter Budget-Keeper?  A more efficient homemaker?

What am I doing wrong?  I never stop trying, I feel like all these components are screaming at me constantly, demanding attention I’m running low on to begin with.

What am I missing, what system must I adapt to find joy and peace?

So yesterday I found it, a huge challenge, a truly hard way to live but certainly one that will bring my life together.

pansies-remain

Remain daughter.  Just remain.  I am the vine, you are the branches, unless you remain in me and I in you, you will surely wither and bear no fruit. (John 15 paraphrased)

This verse quietly reminded me of my true glue, my only real system all contained in something simple and incredibly profound.  Jesus puts it simply using a word picture that his audience could understand, one that is easy to grasp for us still today.

I am the vine, you are the branches, apart from me you can bear no fruit.  None.  Remain in me and I will remain in you.

Right here our Jesus meets his audience in the space where they live by farming language.    If he were speaking to me personally, where I live, he would say this:

“You know how Noelle picks pansies from the front flower beds and it drives you crazy?  Can you count the number of times you’ve gently explained to her that when she takes the flowers away from the plant, they die?”

Well you are the flower and I am the plant, if your beauty is removed from me, you loose all your nutrients and start to shrivel up.  You can put the flower in water but it’s only a patch, a flower removed from the plant, the flower bed, will surely die.”

It’s so frustrating how easily I forget this concept and run to everything but my true source.  I flail about like a fish on a dock, trying everything else before flopping back in the life giving water.

There is no perfect diet or system that will pull it all together, there are some that may be helpful add-ons but the only true source of joy, the only true glue for me is to remain within the ever-helpful, sustaining, nutritive presence of God.

I cannot earn it
I cannot make it
I cannot schedule it
I can only, truly just remain.

To remain, just to be in Him, that’s our only real system, everything else is just details.