February was a tough month. We’d been told it would be by others who’ve been at the school longer than we have, but I think it was easy to assume it wouldn’t be that bad, especially without the winter doldrums of Washington state to contend with. Yet we’ve found ourselves the past several weeks feeling weary and struggling to find joy in what we’ve been doing. So far, March seems a bit more promising but also potentially more stressful and busy as well.
I think it’s tempting on a blog like this to only write about the good parts – the kids that succeeded, the adventures that excite, the stories that inspire. Those are the most fun to write about and often the most fun for others to read. But I think the past couple months have challenged me to broaden my perspective. To press on through tougher days and be ok with it, even when I’m not sure if that particular conversation helped that student or whether that tough decision ended up being the right one.
One of the main sources of struggle for me lately has been the sinking feeling that my administrative and leadership responsibilities have been rapidly encroaching on my time for and focus on working directly with students. The greatest calling on my heart for most of my life has been to love and walk with people through their life journeys. After all, that was the primary reason I went to grad school to study family therapy and to pursue a career in clinical work. So when I find myself spending hours in meetings, coordinating schedules, receiving referrals, answering emails, and doing a myriad other tasks while sitting at my desk, it can be a bit discouraging.
Sometimes I’m jealous of my staff who get to spend the vast majority of their time counseling students and growing clinically. A wise person reminded me last week, though, that I could have stayed in Seattle and done just that – I could have worked at an agency and carried a caseload of clients and racked up hours toward full U.S. licensure, but I wanted more for our lives than that. God wanted more for our lives than that.
Thankfully, God’s tendency to use challenging times to shape, teach, and even encourage us has proven reliable yet again. This past week or so, God has blessed me with times of nourishment in a variety of unexpected forms. A spontaneous dinner with old friends and fellow staff members who we actually knew from Washington – candid conversation, laughter, and getting to just be ourselves, no questions asked. A lunch with a new friend, and being reminded that candor and connection isn’t always a function of how long you’ve known someone. And an entire day at school with back-to-back people in my office seeking intense support and counsel for varying issues, ironically proving that, even for an introvert, living into the call to love people can be wonderfully refreshing.
The challenges of ministry and life here lately have also allowed me to discover some new things about myself. Like that I’m apparently much more of a visionary than I ever realized. In the midst of struggling with balancing various time demands, my clinical supervisor in the U.S. suggested I make a list of all the things I’m working on or hoping to work on administratively. When I did, the single-spaced list took up a full two pages. I want to start therapy groups for issues like children of divorce, eating disorders, and self harm. I want to integrate a Family Life Education and sexuality curriculum into what we teach at all grade levels. I want to refine our departmental procedures and write a manual that will allow us more structure to thrive within. And the list went on.
No wonder my brain had been feeling so full and my time so lacking! It’s easy to think that having vision is a positive thing, but it can sure be overwhelming and threaten to shut you down entirely if it isn’t kept under control. If it isn’t laid down daily at the Father’s feet in search of wisdom to know where my vision matches His for this community. It’s one of many lessons I’ve been learning as God uses these experiences not only to serve others but to mold me as well.
During these tougher times, it’s been easy to feel like Moses, wondering why on earth God thought it was a good idea to put me here to bumble my way through this, whatever “this” is. That’s where this becomes a chance to learn to trust, to praise Him for the challenges, and to let Him continue to take us on this wild ride. To trust that His plan is a good one, even if we never get to find out the particulars of why. To trust that each day He will place in front of us exactly what He wants to use us for that day. And to be bold enough to create space to pursue the work He’s placed the greatest passion in our hearts for. And to trust there is a reason for that, too.
I guess this post turned out to be about the “good parts” after all. The parts that are grown out of the challenges and struggles in our lives. I guess God tends to do a pretty good job of that – in the world of online musings, and in the world of real life as well.
March 10, 2013 Ecuador