Once We Give Them Feet

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I’m folding up chairs because that’s what you do after eating lunch at church.

Or at least until you run into Harry.

Harry stops my work. He tells me that he and his wife, Margaret, have been praying for our family. They’ve heard something of the story surrounding our move to Winnipeg, but now Harry, 82, has some stories he wants to share with me. And he’s a much better storyteller.

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Love Believes First

Underneath a capricious prairie sky, we drive east along the Trans-Canada Highway.

The autumn sun is behind us. It pours out all it has left, in yellow and gold, and turns this concrete highway into a river of fire. But today as we drive home from Thanksgiving, we remember how to feel safe in the wispiness of clouds, remaining open to receive whatever comes our way, even as a dark and steely weight walks across the prairie and sets off whispers of a looming storm.

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Many thanks to my friend Jennifer Ferguson of Finding Heaving Today and s(He) Listens Ministries for inviting me to write a guest post for her ongoing marriage series. I hope you'll join me!

 

My Last Day

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Not long ago, I handed in my letter of resignation. I made two hard creases and folded up 13 years of teaching English at a rural high school in Northern Indiana.

Friday was my last day in the classroom. The first student who opened my door that morning handed me a card and a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies. I read the card after she left. “I’ll be praying for you and your family,” she wrote.

The whole day was bittersweet, just like that.

This summer my family of four will begin our new life in Winnipeg, a large urban city in central Canada. It’s been a dream of ours for years. There comes a time when the only way to make a dream come true is to stop dreaming and take action.

Sometimes that means letting go of a regular paycheck and a regular routine. And the security of sensibly-placed furniture.

At least for a time.

As I emptied my classroom of 13 years of memories and supplies, I needed the help of others. I handed out most of my belongings to students and teachers. I doled out handfuls of pens and highlighters, my famous collection of kitschy garden gnomes, a giant lamp shaped like a tree stump with three perching owls on it, and hundreds of pieces of magnetic poetry. I gave away coffee mugs and framed artwork. I removed special books from my shelves, sat down and wrote notes inside them, and went to deliver them to students who might treasure a particular book from me. It felt good to give things away. It also felt strange.

So many pieces of me. Scattered.

In the afternoon, 20 or so students from Mr. Thompson’s English classroom suddenly stormed mine with an arctic blast of symbolism. These former students of mine blasted me with laughter and a blizzard of hundreds of crumpled paper snowballs.

Soon after, Mr. Thompson stopped by with a smile and a big snow shovel. He cleared the floor of the wadded-up notebook paper. His students left the snowballs a few inches deep.

Friday was strange in unspeakable ways and my stomach didn’t feel like eating lunch.

Before I left at the end of the day, two students dropped by to say goodbye. A.J. noticed my cool astronaut water bottle, still half-full, sitting on my desk. He wondered if he could have it.

I was suddenly overcome with thirst. But I knew he would enjoy it.

Then, once it was time to go — get this — these two students asked if they could pray for me.

Yes, A.J.

Yes, Kyla.

I wouldn’t want my life in the classroom to end any other way.

Special note: As our family gears up for this big move, we face many unknowns. The days before us will surely bubble and froth with adventure. My plan is to share the continuing story with you during these life-changing months as often as I can.

If you think of us, my family thanks you for your prayers.

I am grateful for the community which has formed over the last year, here on my page. You’ve left more than just messages in comment boxes. You’ve left gifts of encouragement and personal connection, so my prayers are with you, too.

 

Valerie’s Got It Covered

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The sun enters my classroom after my students leave, and I’m thankful once again for how light can melt the side of my cheek.

Valerie parks her heavy custodial cart just outside my room. Through the window in the door, I see her unroll and tear off two trash bags. She reaches for the doorknob.

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Moving

I used to talk to myself a lot during my college years. Maybe I had too much time on my hands. But our conversations were sometimes illuminating. 

Sometimes.
 
It was a sunny day, early in the fall semester. I sat beside a window on the library’s top floor. My limbs weighed heavy with pressing questions, the ones about distant destinations. From my oversized chair, I saw how the laurel oaks were shedding their leaves and already covering up paths. Was one of them mine?
 
I wanted out of that library.
 
The weight of my books didn’t matter. Back then, I needed only a single leather strap over my shoulder to tote around everything that mattered. My blue Jansport fit like a good home, still mobile enough for me to move.

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Thumbs vs. Voices

In a box somewhere in the basement, I have a button with a bold proclamation on it.

“I’m Thumb-body Specia!”

Everyone in my class got one, though maybe I’m the only one to have kept his all these years.

I don’t know if my self esteem got the intended boost or not. But I did get a shiny button.

And then I think of a friend from my college years. Ken still had a smelly gym locker full of contempt for the state of public education. “Teach students to have self esteem? Come on! Teach them how to Continue reading

What’s Cooking?

Freedom takes a long time to bake, doesn’t it? And its smell fills our homes like a slow-roasted turkey or ham.

But it starts out raw. Yes, even like a carcass.

For centuries, God’s people had been starving in a desert of their own making. They hungered for liberation. They craved a table set for a king.

But once He arrived in Bethlehem, the meal didn’t look too much like a feast. In fact, He seemed to embrace the confinement of a wooden trough, a place setting for an animal. Not for royalty.

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