So Easy to Forget..

For over a year I have prayed every day for a job. My contract ended June 2016 and I needed a new one. I watched as we neared the summer, telling myself that maybe more schools would hire in June. I talked myself down during July and told myself that there were always last minute hires.. maybe in August. I braced myself to face September.. my first September in a looong time where I didn’t have a contract. I comforted myself with the idea that “anything could happen” and a mid year hire was possible. I scoured job sites, explored fields other than education, and prayed every day.

God didn’t answer my prayer immediately. He didn’t answer it the way I thought he should answer it last Spring but he did have a plan and while I’m sure I don’t understand all of it, I see now that he had some work to do in me.
So the past year was trying and difficult and humbling and frightening. Every month I had bills to pay and spent a lot of time talking to God about my bank account. I had never been in that position before… needing to pray for literal daily bread. (well not totally literal.. bread is bad) But I had specific financial needs that I needed help with. And God provided! It was amazing!
Since I didn’t have a busy full-time job (I was supply teaching) I had lots of time to read. I read a lot. My morning time with God was no longer rushed and that was a good thing. I noticed my prayer life was changing too. While a year ago I was a bit more demanding about the kind of job I wanted and the particular school I was hoping for, my prayers changed to asking him to put me where he needed me and where he could use me. My heart was changing and shifting and my relationship was deepening. I moved from praying for the ability to trust him, to actually trusting him.
And now things have changed. I have a job. It came just in time and so far it seems like a great fit for the next year.
I am excited about the future and I am so happy to be working again. I am also determined not to forget all that God has done for me. I don’t want to wander slightly because things are good at the moment. I don’t want to forget the moments that I nervously checked my bank account to see if I had enough to pay a bill and found that the money was there! I feel protective of this past year because it was the year I experienced him in a totally different way. So I’m writing things down so I don’t forget about that time that God took care of me and showed me amazing kindness and love when I needed it most.

Goodbye September

September was not my finest month. My circumstances were not ideal and neither was my attitude. You see, for the past 11 years I have always had a full-time teaching job in September. I am used to being slightly stressed and overwhelmed while scrambling to learn my new student’s names and organize myself and my courses for the year. I am used to long, tiring days and trying very hard not to start any sort of countdown. For the first time, in 11 years, I did not have a job on the First Day of School. And that rocked me.

 

I had been praying for a job for September since pretty much the previous September and spent time believing that God was going to provide just that for me. As I approached the summer, I was slightly nervous but still pretty confident that I would be working on the first day of school. As August started to show itself, I was growing a little more tense, but then a job opprotunity presented itself and I was SURE that it was what God has in mind for me. I interviewed and then spent the week panicking until I heard that.. Nope, it was not to be. Devastating. Yet I consoled myself with the fact that it would be okay.. I’d be working by September. And then it was the last week of August, the first week of September, Labour Day and then the first day of school. The only thing on my calendar was a hair appointment mid afternoon. For the first time in 11 years… I was unemployed.

 

I was upset. I was stressed out. I was panicky. I worried about my future, my rent payments, my RRSPs, my long term savings that were dwindling… I was a mess. I felt like a loser, a failure, way too similar to people I had previously judged. I didn’t sleep well. I didn’t wake up well. It took me a long time every morning to get to a place where I felt something that resembled peace. Maybe it wasn’t quite peace but it was something that resembled being okay enough to face the day.

 

I kept praying the same thing: “God, please give me a full time job and please help me to trust you.” The prayers didn’t really seem to be working.

 

A side note is that I am not entirely unemployed. I am on a supply teacher list at my previous school and happily, I was being called in quite a lot. I also had some friends in town and I enjoyed being free to spend time with them during the day. And, I have a good friend in a similar situation to me and we did meet up occasionally and discuss how this was only temporary.

 

One day I noticed the fact that September was nearing its completion, fall had started, the weather was changing, and I just wanted time to stop. I was dreading October because that means that a whole month has now gone by where I’m not teaching. What a depressing thought! But this is the thing! I basically spent the summer not being able to enjoy myself because I was so stressed out about a job and I spent September the same way. I know, deep down, that this is all temporary and that the supply teaching gig is actually pretty sweet. I know that I may never have time like this again and I suddenly realized, I can’t keep dreading the future and spending day after day miserable and stressed out. I can’t let one thing that isn’t going the way I want it to go to dictate my thoughts and mood on my entire life.

 

Also, I started to think about how there are so many things I’ve wanted to do that I was unable to do because I was teaching or too tired from teaching. But now– I have time. I actually have time AND energy. I don’t want to waste that. I want to be able to take advantage of the fact that I am in a unique situation, one where I actually have time to write the things I want to write and to read the books I want to read, and to cook the recipes I’ve been eyeing and to get back into running and yoga and all of the other things that I never used to have time to do.

 

I want to actually enjoy the fall. I want to spend time happily working away at projects that I’ve ignored for far too long. I want to enjoy being able to meet up with a friend in the afternoon for coffee. I want to remember that God has me in this moment in time, in these particular circumstances, for a reason and I want to be able to calm down and relax in that. He’s got me.

 

So now I’m looking at October, 31 whole days, and maybe I’ll get a job and maybe I won’t. I am determined to make use of this month either way, and to live each day purposefully and well.

 

I haven’t had my “doom and gloom” early morning freakouts for a while now and my prayers are no longer me begging God to help me trust Him. I realized the other day that finally… finally after ages and ages, I actually DO trust Him. I’ll keep praying for wisdom and guidance and direction and a job but while I pray, I hold onto the fact that I serve a good God, with a perfect plan and I can trust in Him for all things.

 

In which I ramble for quite a while about nothing too significant…

And it’s already mid November! Life has been super busy and continues to be so but I’m in the groove and just accepting that “this is what I do” or maybe this is just what real life is like. I used to give my parents a hard time for falling asleep during Friday night movies but now– I can barely make it through a 40 minute tv show! Yep, wild times around here!

So what do you do when you are stressed and just want to zone out? One of my favourite things to do is to go to Loft. It’s a gigantic store with floors and floors of things that I definitely don’t need but want. My favourite place is the ground floor where they have all the stationary. Pens, markers, stickers, notebooks, journals, notepaper… I went recently and so I’m all stocked up on the stationary front, in case you were wondering.

I’m heading to Singapore with some students on Monday morning. It will be really nice to be in a hot climate again and I am looking forward to the change of scenery. This is my fourth time leading this trip so I pretty much know what to expect. Long days and longer (but fun) nights. We’re taking more students this year so it may involve a little more micro managing than last year but it’s all good.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about my job these days. I really have taken on too many things and am starting to feel like I’m not doing anything all that well. Sure, the things get done to an acceptable standard but I don’t feel like I’m doing anything with excellence. So I need to shift some things around and figure out what my main priorities are. I don’t want to be a person who can do a lot of things “okay”, I want to do a few things brilliantly.

Did I tell you I joined a gym? I did. Again. Sheesh! But this one is cheap for Japan, has a few cardio machines and lots of weights and is open 24 hours. In an ideal world I go running 3-4 mornings a week and hit the gym the other days. I am still working on this. I have been enjoying the whole weight lifting thing and they tell me that it’s really good for me so I’ll keep at it.

Lastly, I’m really trying to sleep better and cut back on my screen time so I invested in a real alarm clock. I’m trying not to take my phone to bed with me but sometimes it just sneaks into my bedroom. I am shocked by my dependence on that silly thing and probably need to do a social media fast again.

This Past Week

Just got back from three days in Gunma with 27 high school girls and 3 other teachers. I can honestly say that it was the best field trip I’ve ever been on. Everything just worked and fun and adventure was had by all. We had 4 activities: white water rafting, canyoning, kayaking, and mountain biking. Lots of fun and scary moments. I absolutely fell in love with canyoning. It’s basically like whitewater rafting.. without the raft. You put on a wetsuit and a helmut and trek through rivers and streams and jump off waterfalls and into caves. It’s crazy! I had a really cute group of girls and we all worked together and supported each other. It was a total blast.

It was also great being in major nature. Tokyo doesn’t exactly provide that and so I think the fresh air, the fall colours, the gorgeous views, did us all some good.

It was also great to see my students out of the classroom setting. It’s fun to have them encouraging me to jump off a cliff and it’s fun to talk them through kayaking or biking.

The past three days were amazing for me on lots of levels. It was good to stretch and challenge myself to do scary things. It was fun to be totally active all day long and out in nature. It was good to see my students in a new light and it was a good reminder that yes, I really do have a great job!

On Why I Need to Stop Being Silly…

I’m pretty stupid sometimes.

I worry and I fret myself about all kind of things. I view situations as impossible to solve. I dread the future based on my own paranoid induced predictions. Silly girl.

I have been dealing with a less than pleasant situation at work for about… well since the year started. It continues to escalate and grow seemingly worse and I spend way too much of my time thinking about it. I have been trying to come to grips with the fact that being in a leadership position means that sometimes people just aren’t going to like me. I’ve been trying to make peace with that and figure out a way to deal with it. I tell you, I may be an expert at pinning quotes on Pinterest about how it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, go your own way, don’t let others affect you, people can’t make you feel badly without your permission.. or something but I tell you— they don’t really seem to work!

And so I kept praying that God would help me. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me but I didn’t expect such an immediate and unexpected answer. Yesterday, I went into work bracing myself for more awkwardness and yes, that was there but also many opportunities to discuss things. The whole day seemed to involve conflict resolution and/or “difficult conversations” and you know what– I feel so much better about everything.

Honestly, it was a bit of a rush to see such a quick answer to prayer. It was such a clear example of God going before me and opening the doors and hearts of the people I needed to speak with. And I didn’t even cry.

So I must remember not to be foolish and to trust that He really will work out all of the details and be beside me when I face tricky things.. His way of working things out is so much better than mine!

A New Take on Conflict

This past weekend was spent in a Professional Development workshop. Fun times. Actually, it was highly beneficial and I walked away with lots to think about and some practical tips to begin implementing immediately. 

As is the case with most of these PD opportunities, sometimes the best things happen during break times. Yes the cookies were good (although the coffee was disappointing.. instant.. blech) but I’m talking about the seemingly random conversations that occur around the snack table. Quite often an off-the-cuff comment is the most prominent thing we walk away with. That happened to me.

I was speaking with a teacher from another school and he was explaining the ins-and-outs of his job. It sounded to me like a lot of conflict resolution, liaisoning and hard conversations. “Wow, that sounds really intense,” I remarked, while deciding that it would be a coffee-free day. 

“Actually,” he said, “I love it. For me it’s really exciting to have a problem and figure out a way to work it out. I love the challenge of conflict and it’s really interesting to figure out how to fix problems and come to common agreements and understandings.”

Wow. I had never thought of that before. I usually try to avoid conflict at all costs. I’d rather suck it up and grin and bear it than have to have a hard conversation. To be able to change my approach to it would be mind bending, life altering even. Ha! But seriously, if I can work myself to a place where I see conflict as a good thing and as a healthy thing and become excited about the chance to work on a problem, talk it out, see it through and come up with the best solution, well I’ll be able to alleviate a lot of my job stress. It’s a new approach and I like it. 

So that was neat. 

I also learned a lot of other valuable stuff but I do so appreciate the wisdom that I gain from chit-chats. 

On the morning of my flight home for the holidays

I’ve been awake since 3:30am. My flight is not until 5pm but I get pretty geared up and excited the night before I fly and so… ping! Eyes open! Brain racing! And here we are.

My bags are packed… well.. that’s a wee lie. Bags are almost done but you know how all the last minute stuff goes. Other than that, I’m pretty much ready to go. I am more than a little bit excited to be going home for Christmas! 

It has been an incredibly busy time since August. I have been busier than I’ve ever been in my life and I’ve been challenged in all sorts of ways.  

And.

I.

Am.

Tired.

But it’s not a miserable, stressed-out, hysterical tiredness, it’s a content tiredness. I feel like things in my life here are going rather well. Usually at this time of year, I’m exhausted and frazzled and just need to escape everything. I feel rather on top of things for the first time in ages… well there is a bit of a pile of marking that will greet me upon my return but c’est la vie of la professeura de anglais.. or something like that. 

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been engaged in certain professional “dialogues”.. Some are with the admin at my school and others were led by me with the members of my department. Honestly, I feel a bit inadequate asking my colleagues to set their professional goals and then commenting on what I think their strengths and issues are (yikes!), but it happened and we all survived the experience. It was actually a really good thing and inspiring to think of new ways to improve our teaching practices etc etc. 

When meeting with my principal we were able to discuss ways of making the English Department take on a higher profile in the school. He shares my vision of making sure every student likes English and becomes a true lifelong lover of reading and writing. Lots of ideas going back and forth and I now have a few new things to begin to implement when I return. 

In brief conversations with my good friend/colleague, we came up with a couple of creative projects that will make January to June really rather fun. He and I worked on a video last spring for our seniors and we work really well together. You know when someone just “gets” what you’re thinking and then can actually make it happen? He’s that guy. I dream the dream and he does the tech stuff and it all just works. We’ve got a few new ideas up our sleeves which maybe I’ll fill you in on sometime. 

In terms of my classes– they are all gelling well and we’re having a grand ol’ time! 

So I’m tired but I’m happy. I feel like I’m leaving this place in a good place and so I’ll really be able to enjoy being home for three weeks. And while I’m sure there will be tears at the airport when I leave, who are we kidding here?!?! airports are for cry-babies… they won’t be tears about returning. That’s a nice change. 

OK off to play games with my carry-on. I fear I’ve created a rather complicated situation for myself.