Thursday, April 25, 2013

it opened

Going off of the last post....I knocked; the door opened.

I have been so extremely stressed about the goings on at my school lately.  Even if I try to avoid it, my body knows what is happening and the knots in my back and neck and shoulders give it away.

I met the whole "reconstitution" issue with a rather neutral frame of mind.  No real feeling one way or the other.  And then mixed feelings.  Almost immediately after it passed, our principal began drafting her new "team"...meeting with the teachers she would like to stay.  Many of them are choosing to leave in spite of her offer. Thursday and Friday passed with no contact from her (and so have the first 3 days of this week).  Monday she was out (interviewing our replacements at a job fair).

Monday, after speaking to my sister-in-law the night before, I had posted the St. Michael prayer as my Facebook status.  St. Michael and I are pretty good friends - he has gotten me through some tough times before.  On Tuesday, I woke up like any other day.  I went to Mass at the church near my school.  The first reading caught my attention.  It was from the Acts of the Apostles and spoke of the good that was accomplished by those who were scattered as a result of persecution.  I know they weren't talking about middle school teachers, but that just stuck with me.   The people at my school have always been a family, and now we are being scattered to the four winds.

They have adoration after Mass on Tuesday, so I stayed for a few minutes, wrote a few questions in my journal about it, asked for guidance and the openness to know His plan.  I thought about my integrity as a person and how much I am willing to put up with.  A flash of the staff member that gave me so many problems a few years back had also visited me in a dream the previous week.  (I'm not much for putting a lot of stock in my dreams, and I seldom even remember them, but that seemed to remind me that her return to our workplace was a possibility.)

I arrived at school and ran across one of my friends on the sidewalk.  I followed her to her room, and we chatted about 8th grade math and her plans for next year (she is leaving).  Nothing dramatic.

I do not know what happened. But by the time I went on lunch duty, I heard the words "I'm not coming back here next year" coming out of my mouth.  I don't know where they came from.  I've been at this school forever - I've taught the parents and aunts and uncles of the kids I teach now.  I have always joked that I would die or retire there.  Lately with the stress - dying seems the more likely option.  (An assistant principal and another teacher left last week on medical leave.)

As I drove home Tuesday afternoon, I noted that the stress in my shoulders and neck was gone!!  That was confirmation enough for me that the decision was the right one.  Where will I be next year?  Not a clue.  What will I be teaching next year?  I don't know.  But I do know that God has a plan, and it is better than mine.  Will it be some piece of cake dream job?  Probably not.  But there will be a reason why I am where I am.

I didn't really need any more confirmation.  But the next morning at Mass with my own good priest, I sat in amazement.  In his homily, he detailed the very process that I had walked through the day before when we "hear" God.  The "seed" planted in liturgy;  the prayer and discernment; the conversation with others; the fact that it seldom comes in a huge booming voice, but often a quiet whisper.  He likened it to the process of how the politicking that went on before the pope was chosen...the Holy Spirit moves in ordinary things.  It wasn't a particularly memorable homily, but it was a WOW! moment for me.

And if I needed any further thumbs up, the fight that I broke up between 2 brawling 13-year-olds in the middle of 3rd hour math class did it.  I maneuvered one - the one who was 'losing' -  outside of the classroom while the other teacher called the office for assistance and kept the other kid inside the classroom.  The kid I had in my grasp broke away and stood outside banging and kicking and screaming at the locked classroom door.  There's the door thing again!  After our campus cop and an assistant principal arrived to take them away, the other teacher looked at me and asked, "reconsidering your decision yet?"

So my focus for the next couple of weeks is to finish the never-ending paperwork, as much as it can be finished and then to sort and pack.  My prayer is to know the right job when it appears on my radar.

The only other person who has been at my school longer than me is our 80-something year old clerk in the front office.  I whispered my decision to her yesterday.  Today, I found a fortune cookie sized slip of paper from her in my box.  It made my heart smile.

 True words.  He makes all things new.

Editing to Add:  The disappearance of the horrendous stress that was weighing down on me has been signal enough for me that the decision is the right one.  Everything else on my plate has remained....but the stress has not returned.

Last Monday, I signed the paper to make my decision official.  I did this as a humongous cockroach inched across the ceiling in the school library.  I said that I would like to be "displaced".  I will be placed somewhere else in the system.  On Tuesday, as I sat at the same church where the seed had been planted a few weeks earlier, the theme of the priest's homily went along with the Gospel "sometimes it is better not to stay."   I could have hugged him.  As a matter of fact, I did, after Mass.  

And one more...because the confirmations keep coming.  On Monday, I was spending a few quiet moments in the church by my school (same church) before school.  I was looking in my "Courage to Change" book from AlAnon for readings about some other issues (there is a reading for each day, but an index of topics in the back), and I figured I would start with that day's reading.  What should I find, but this?

I find it much easier to risk making decisions when I stop thinking about suffering the consequences and remember that I have the option to enjoy the consequences. Since coming to Al-Anon, I make my choices my conscientiously. I do whatever footwork seems appropriate and then turn the results over to God. The results are often quite favorable. Even when they aren't, I can still celebrate the fact that I have done my part.

For a long time, I avoided decisions because I was sure that there was some magical "right" choice that would get me what I wanted, yet I never seemed to know which choice that was. I waited until the last minute to decide and never felt good about my choices. Today I know that choosing not to decide is to decide.

It can be very liberating to make a decision. Once the choice is made, I can trust that the consequences will unfold as they should. With a slight change of attitude, perhaps I can await them with excitement and hope instead of fear and dread.

I have to think that my recent acquaintance with this group - though I have not been on a regular basis - has given me the courage to at least make this change in my life.

God is good!

Thursday, April 18, 2013


It seems that doors have been slipping in and out of my thoughts of late.  Kind of random, I know.

Last Saturday, as I quietly entered the adoration chapel, I took note of the door.  A keypad on the outside.  Then carefully, slowly, closing the door behind me as I entered, so as not to disturb the others.

It reminded me of the way I enter the confessional, minus the keypad.  Stepping inside and quietly closing the door behind myself.  And in both cases, it is Jesus who waits on the other side of the door.   In the Chapel in the Eucharistic Presence.  In the confessional, in Persona Christi –  in the person of Christ present through the priest who offers counsel, mercy, absolution.  Grace and peace available in both places – overflowing grace and mercy and peace.

During the Triduum and sometimes during Communion at Mass, I am struck by the open tabernacle.  It was about the doors again.  During the Triduum, the Tabernacle is open, empty.  When Mass begins on Holy Thursday, the Tabernacle is empty.  After the Eucharistic procession, the Blessed Sacrament is placed in the Tabernacle during Adoration, but the end of the appointed time, it is removed, and again the Tabernacle is vacant.  There is a feeling that all is not quite right in the world.  On Good Friday and on into the Easter Vigil, the Tabernacle is empty and its emptiness in there for all to behold.  When finally, at the end of the Easter Vigil Celebration, the Eucharist is placed in the Tabernacle, and the door is closed, there is a sense that order has returned to the world.  During Communion last week, it occurred to me that the empty Tabernacle is rather like the empty tomb.  Jesus is among us.

The weekend after Easter, the Gospel is the one for Divine Mercy Sunday.  The one where the  Apostles are gathered behind locked doors.  My priest chose to concentrate on the "locked doors" for his homily.  We all hide behind "locked doors" of some kind.  Whether its a locked door of impatience, unforgiveness, fear, addiction, anxiety, etc.  God is with us - as he was with the Apostles - behind the locked doors.  Later that afternoon, I emailed my pastor about the possibility of blessing the Eagle project detailed in the previous post.  He knows my struggles and my situation well, and I signed my email with something along the lines of  "unlocking doors, one deadbolt at a time".  He replied that he would indeed bless the project and that I could "start with the hinges if the lock was very difficult to turn".  This made me smile, and I thought for a minute, that maybe he was talking about someone else in my life who is very difficult, but then I realized that I don't have the keys to that person's locks.  It must be my own hinges that I need to start with.

There is a door that I often stand in front of.  It is the door to the tabernacle at a church near where I currently work.  There are images of wheat there.  The Bread of Life within.  Me, just a grain of wheat.

Sometimes, when no one else is in the church, I feel myself drawn to the Tabernacle.  I kneel in front and try to open myself to the graces He has to give.  Sometimes my prayer is, "Lord, fill me."  So much strength and peace comes from those quiet moments.  When school is out, and I am no longer in that area on a daily basis, I miss these minutes very much.

I began this post a week or so ago, and tonight another door image floated into my consciousness.  It has been a very difficult year at work.  We changed principals at midterm and our new principal proposed that she be allowed to "reconstitute" the school.  Last night her proposal was approved by the school board. This means that all staff must reapply for their jobs.  Most are seeing it as an opportunity to leave.  I am viewing it with mixed emotions.  I have been at this school for half of my life.  The friendships I have made there will endure, I think.  People have come and gone, but we have always been a family.  There is the feeling that the door on this chapter of my life is clanging shut a little sooner than I would have liked.  I have 3.5 years to retirement.  But, I have confidence that God will put me where I need to be.  When one door closes, another tends to open.

Knock, and the door shall be opened.