I should be overjoyed. After a crazy summer, today is the first full school day for my kids—ALL my kids, even Patrick, our perennial preschooler.
I am home with no one but the dog.
And, with my husband’s full blessing, I am not working regularly this fall. No teaching, no weekly newspaper deadlines, no set work schedule other than the few hours of tutoring I’m doing each week.
But though I should be chanting, “Free at last, thank God almighty I’m free at last,” I’m singing instead, “I’m free, free-falling.” I’m strangely adrift without my old supports.
A month ago I was looking forward to this planned quiet without reservations, but in this first day of the plan’s reality, well… I’m struggling. None of this work brings in a regular paycheck, I’m thinking. When someone asks me, “So what do you DO?” I can’t say “I teach” or even “I write,” since I have no guarantee most of it will get published. “I’m a mom,” I’ll answer, and…
I know that being a mother is a calling, a capital-“C” calling (and feeding a family of eight is in itself a full-time job-aah!). But I’ve always been “mom AND…” And right now, in this day, I’m missing the “and.” I miss teaching. I miss the students and the classroom and fellow teachers. I even miss deadlines and editors and colleagues and an actual office where a listening ear is only on the other side of the wall.
I miss community.
That might be it more than anything.
I’m looking ahead to a semester of writing—a blessed gift from my God and my husband—but writing is solitary and in-my-head, and no one’s going to be around at 11 in the morning to tell me that, yes, that sentence I just re-wrote ten times IS good, and that what I’m doing IS worthwhile and valuable and I’m not just chasing a selfish and impossible dream.
This morning I dropped off the kids at school and ran errands: to the farmer’s market to get MORE food for this crew; to a hair-cutting friend for a trim; to the dollar store for last-minute school supplies for our high-schooler. All good things, but it felt a little off since I wasn’t rushing to my classroom to teach second period. In the in-and-out of the car I caught a snippet of a radio program. The woman being interviewed works with domestic violence victims and has founded a group called “FOCUS.” She explained that the acronym stands for “Focus On Christ for Ultimate Satisfaction.”
I laughed when I heard that. Not because I thought it was funny or silly. Definitely not. But it was THE answer for me in my moment of instability, and it reminded me of the Sunday School saying: If you don’t know the answer to a question, just say “Jesus.” He’s always the right answer.
“Focus on Christ for Ultimate Satisfaction”
Always the right answer! And my silly, instable heart, always wanting what it doesn’t have, afraid of the gifts of THIS moment, needed reminding that HE is THE answer. CHRIST, not community or vocation, is my source of true satisfaction and purpose.
Later in the day I read Psalm 43 (It’s the 43rd day of my Bible-in-a-year program). The first two verses are about enemies, and I was reminded that my own mind and Satan the deceiver functioned quite well in that capacity today: they coaxed me into a free fall. But the last three verses reminded me again of that Ultimate Satisfier, the One who guides all my steps, even when they are leaps into the unknown.
“Send out your light and your truth;
Let them lead me;
Let them bring me to your holy hill
And to Your dwelling!
Then I will go the altar of God,
To God my exceeding joy,
And I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
And why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him,
My salvation and my God.”