Yes, I know the year is not quite over yet, but it is close enough that I am starting to look back and see how far I’m come since 365 days ago.
I’ll start at the end. My year is definitely ending on a high note. Both my brothers flew in from NYC yesterday and that means that my whole family is together. It’s very hard to find the words to explain how that makes me feel. It’s almost like Alka Seltzer for the soul. It’s such a settling feeling when we are all together. Don’t get me wrong–we’re not the Brady Bunch by any stretch. We each have our own shortcomings and our own talents that shine. When we are together it fits. All 3 of us are creative types–Chad in theater and music, Jason with food and flavors, me with painting and words. Even though we’ve haven’t all 3 been under the same roof since last Christmas, we fall easily back into a familiar comfort. Today we planned out both of the Christmas meals we are in charge of and our baking in about 20 minutes. Jason was spouting off ideas for dishes, Chad was in Gourmet magazine and Joy of Cooking finding recipes to build from and I was taking it all down in lists and organizing it by store. I made copies, we went in 2 different directions and had it all purchased in just a few hours. It was amazing. I love having them here. And you should see the smiles on my parents faces and hear the laughter falling from their mouths. They love it, too.
Now, we’ll go back to the start. One year ago I was on Christmas break from teaching. I had to go back for 3 more days to help transition the new hire in with my class. I had a lot of mixed emotions. The most powerful feeling I had was panic–What the heck am I DOING quitting my job? I was the reigning teacher of the year for goodness sake! I was going to go all the way with my education and retire from teaching after a fulfilling 28 years of touching the young minds of the future (insert some sarcasm there). I’m not sure I can ever forget the way it felt when I walked out on the last day. There was no parade of goodbyes and hugs. It was just me and my last box standing in a long hallway. Just as I was about to go through the double doors, I looked back towards my classroom that no longer had my name on it that no longer belonged to me and I felt like undoing it all right then and running back in to reclaim what I had built over 8 years. But I didn’t. I walked away from teaching and into a entirely new phase of my life.
And now that I’ve been in this phase for a year, I can say that I love it. Where once I was an expert on children, now I am an expert on one child. He’s the most important one to me. I know him inside and out. I know how to read him. I know what he wants. He can communicate to me without words. I can keep him calm and happy like no one else can. I have supervised every activity he has participated in and I’ve made (or bought) every meal that he has eaten. I was here to teach him how to drink out of a cup. I got to see his face with each new food he tried. I saw and helped, even if in a small way, bring about each milestone that he met. I have memories, pictures and videos of it all because I was here. I chose to be the one to raise my child instead of plowing ahead in my career and I don’t regret that for a minute. That was by far the biggest change that occurred in me as I see it.
Jeff and I were attending Cornerstone and did not have any thoughts of leaving. However, in April, my good friend Robin was over at my house for a cooking group. She stayed late and told me about Brad (her husband) feeling the call to start a new and different church and to go back into being a lead pastor (he was an assistant at the time, but had been the lead pastor of 2 churches in the past). I was floored and my insides starting jumping all around! I knew I had to be a part of it. Little did I know that I would soon get the chance. Brad was fired 2 weeks later because the pastor felt he was not being up front enough about his plans (although he was not keeping it a secret). The next week, the four of us (me, Jeff, Brad and Robin) were meeting together sharing our dreams of what we’d love church to be. The week after that Brad and Robin attended a church service for Catalyst church meeting in the Gvl. Little Theatre downtown. They announced that Sunday was their last. Brad contacted the pastor a few days later to find out what they were doing with their stuff and it turned out they were selling it (I don’t believe in coincidence–I believe in the power of God to make things happen.). We went a few days later and bought thousands of dollars in children’s ministry materials, tables, a super-cool projector, decor, etc. for PENNIES of what it actually cost them. Amazing. We got our break. I began researching locations. In May we decided on Eastside high school because of their brand new building and state of the art theatre sound system and lighting. We signed a contract and began real strategic planning meetings with about 17 people–our core group. Our first service was in late July with about 65 people. Today we celebrated our 6 month anniversary with about 120.
I’ve gone to church most of my life, but actually being a part of making it happen really changed things for me. I began to see church from an outsiders perspective and I began to work each week for that person. That person who stepped through our doors for the first time. I began to care about first impressions and attitudes and volunteers and excellence in every area. To attain that excellence, I had to grow as a leader so that I would have excellent support. That’s been my biggest challenge. Getting things done and done well has never been a problem for me. But, I’ve also always worked alone. Just me and my classroom. Now I’m learning (and certain that I will be for a long time) about pouring time and encouragement into others. Working with others is a stretch for me, but thankfully I love a good challenge.
My job with the church also brought me out of my stay-at-home mom isolation that I’d let myself slip into. I had stopped being creative and feeling productive in society. And, I was a little sad about that. Suddenly, I had a purpose again. I did more in a day that give a baby bottles and change diapers and clean house. Part of my brain that had gone to sleep was awake again and it was the biggest high! My favorite part of the work I do each week is the computer graphics. This year I went from being a PC to being a MAC. The graphics program that is TOPS in churches only runs on a MAC, so they bought me one so we could have the best. If you’ve never used one, they are amazing machines. I know they cost more than PC’s, but you’ll be glad you spent the money. That’s the end of my free advertising for Apple. I’ve also began to touch the tip of the Adobe Creative Suite in learning InDesign. I know enough about it now just to be dangerous.
As we go into 2009, my job with the church will grow from being everyone’s assistant and graphics geek to something even more exciting for me. As soon as it’s announced and official, I’ll share that as well.
In January of this year I was the mother of an infant just over 4 months old. Now I’ve watched him learn to sit up, roll over, crawl, eat solid food, pull up, walk and now talk and laugh and interact. That means that I’ve managed to raise a baby into a toddler. And, I think I did a pretty darn good job.
Yes, this year rocked my world. For a while my life didn’t even feel like my life, but now I’m back to a place where I’m comfortable and thrilled with where I am. 2008 was a good year.