I had a music professor in college who always said, “Life is like smooth jazz– it always doubles back when you least expect it.”
This school year, I feel like I’m getting a hearty dose of this lovely life lesson.
Three years ago when I moved to the West Campus of the Denver Street School, I couldn’t have been less excited about where God had placed me.
All summer that year I had prayed and prayed, begging God to open a paid job for me at the school… and when He finally did, it was in the last place I wanted to work– the school nursery.
Seeing as I was finishing up my English degree and starting my teaching licensure classes, I wanted a position where I would work with high school students. I had spent the last two years student teaching English at the East Campus and part of me wanted the familiarity of teaching a similar age group.
But part of me– the deeply wounded and prideful part of me– didn’t want to deal with preschoolers and babies because holding and loving babies who weren’t mine was just too painful.
At the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, I was still broken-hearted from losing custody of my two beautiful god-children less than a year before.
I (the girl who had spent the last six years doting on the beautiful children God had placed in my life) spent the majority of my time trying to get away from children. I didn’t hold my friends’ newborns. I didn’t attend baby showers or birthdays. I just didn’t want to be near babies or kids.
So when God opened a door for a nursery job, I nearly slammed the door right back in His face… but I knew I couldn’t. The only few logical brain cells I had left, pushed me to accept the job and walk into my tiny classroom everyday.
But I was bitter. Oh, was I bitter…
I didn’t want to hold, or rock, or nurture someone elses’ babies.
I wanted mine. My babies. My tiny dysfunctional family.
So everyday that first quarter, as I rocked the babies to sleep in the nursery, I argued with God.
This isn’t fair.
How on earth could you do this to me?
How could you take my babies and give me this stupid job?
Why couldn’t you make this easier on me?
Do you just enjoy watching me squirm, God?!
What. The. Actual. Heck.
To put the icing on my bitter-pitty-party cake, it seemed that Romans 8:28 continuously came up in every Christian setting I entered. Sunday morning sermons. Staff devotions. Bible studies. Coffee dates with friends. Coffee mugs. They all read,
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.“
Every time I heard this truth, I would mentally retort, “There’s no way you could ever make this ‘good’, God. Nothing will ever heal this. Nothing could fix this much brokenness/anger/sadness/[insert the emotion of the day here].”
Yet He met my challenge.
Maybe not right away… but He did it…
Fast forward a year and a half:
By this point, I was no longer the nursery worker at the West Campus. Instead, a year and a half later, I was the cooking teacher. [Have I ever mentioned that God seriously has a sense of humor? If you’ve seen me cook (or catch things on fire while trying to cook) you understand what I’m getting at here…]
On the last day of third quarter, I was packing my bag of teacher tricks and preparing to leave for a much needed spring break when a very distraught student slammed out of the science room across the hall, ran past me, down the hall, down the stairs, and out the front door of the school.
Being the notoriously nosy teacher that I am, I left my bag in the hallway and followed her out the front door of the school. By the time I found her, she was sitting in the middle of a parking space in the front parking lot, sobbing.
For a while, I simply sat next to her, staring ahead at the road, neither of us saying a word. After maybe five minutes of her working to catch her breath, disjointed phrases started pouring out of her mouth.
“I failed science. I’m a failure. I’m never going to graduate. I need to graduate but I’m never going to. How did this happen? How could I let this happen?”
I tried to console her, explaining that failing classes happens sometimes… until I saw her shaking her head through fresh tears and I realized that we weren’t just talking about a science credit anymore.
“I’m five months pregnant, Miss… I’m scared. I need to graduate, but now it might not happen. And I don’t know what to do. Do I put the baby up for adoption? Do I keep her? How do I raise a baby if I can’t even pass science?”
Her words washed over me like a tidal wave.
I knew that feeling all too well. The questioning, the fear, the gut-wrenching pain that accompanies thoughts of putting a child up for adoption…
“I don’t know darlin’. But I promise we’ll figure it out, together. I have some stories I can tell you sometime, but for today let’s get you home to rest. We can figure out graduation and school another day…”
In the weeks and months that followed, we went out to lunch several times. We talked about adoption and my experiences with that whole process. We talked about what it would look like for her to keep the baby. We talked a lot, and we cried a lot too.
Ultimately, even though she knew that it was going to be hard, she decided to keep the baby.
And if we were to hit fast forward another year and a half, you would see that beautiful baby girl toddling around my living room right now as I switch between writing this post and making up lesson plans for my preschool class…Yupp, you guessed it– at the West Campus of the Denver Street School.
In so many ways, life has brought me back to where I was three, four, even five years ago.
Once again, I am teaching preschool– something that I laugh about to myself regularly. Once again, I am caring for a beautiful baby girl who isn’t mine, but whom I couldn’t possibly love more.
God, in his graciousness has used this beautiful baby girl and her momma to heal so many deep wounds in my soul that were created when I had to say goodbye to the two loves of my life nearly four years ago.
It has been a long loop, but because of the healing that He has provided through these two, I walk into my classroom everyday, pick up my goofy, tiny students, and I smile.
My heart is no longer consumed by bitterness because God has shown me how He can take even the most desolate times in my life and use them for His Kingdom– His good, as Romans 8:28 continues to remind me today.
I never thought that losing my godkids could be something that God would use for His good, but He has. Because of the pain of that experience, I was able to speak light into Megan’s darkness and fear in that parking lot. Because of that one conversation, Megan and I have formed an amazing relationship that has endured late night phone calls and cranky-pre-coffee morning bickering. We’ve sat in the NICU together, cried on futons while eating popsicles together, had late night homework sessions on the phone, and I am incredibly honored to say that I was able to be one of the women who spoke at her graduation three months ago.
God is continuously using Megan and little Hailey to show me His goodness and His plans for redemption.
Just like He didn’t leave me in my brokenness, He isn’t leaving my girls “out to dry” either. Not only did Megan graduate high school, but God has provided the opportunity for her to go to college and pursue her dreams of becoming an English professor, and I couldn’t be more proud of the way that she is learning to trust in Him and chase her dreams.
And me? No, I might not have my little ones with me right now, but I have the privilege of nannying Megan’s joy-filled daughter and watching her grow up one day at a time, right here in my living room…
Yes, there are days when we are all so exhausted we could cry, but there are also days when this goofy child makes us laugh so hard that our stomachs hurt. It might not be a perfect situation by the world’s standards, but today it feels perfect to me because I know that this is exactly where the three of us are supposed to be– trying to figure out life, together.
Brothers and sisters, if you are going through something so painful and dark that you don’t believe it will ever be fruitful or good, take heart, for He truly does work things out for the good of those who love Him.
Our God is a God who loves smooth jazz, and I firmly believe that it is He who loops life around us, time and time again until He has allowed our wounds to be healed and our hearts to be His.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For when we do not know what to pray for as we ought, the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.“