We lived above the best restaurant in town with a private staircase leading straight into the dining room, all dressed in white linen. Too many nights we used that private entrance and helped ourselves to a table and a cheesy biscuit. The waiter would slow down, turn and wonder from where we had come.
We were new to this obedient life. We were new to this married life. We were new to this small, southern town life. We were vulnerable and hopeful and naive about covenant love and ministry. We did a lot of things wrong ... sometimes went to bed angry; sometimes spent too much time loving teenagers and not enough time loving each other; sometimes skipped church. We were aliens and we gushed about our colonial town in the fall and the candles in the windows during winter. They gushed about high school football ... and college football. And they were beautiful people who loved us well.
But it was hard. So much new. So far away. I wavered in all of the new. But I had a deep sense of His goodness over this life too and I had a new focus. I battled. But I didn't fall.
Because I had been miserable. I had felt afflicted. I had been all locked up in my own messed-up living and He had shown compassion. Now I was living in relief and in gratitude. (See Romans 11:32-12:1) I didn't really know how to love teenagers from a ministry model. I just knew I did love them.
Truth is, there were so many people in my life along the way until that point. So many women that loved me regardless of the struggle or the choices. So many people, just one step ahead, that assured me by their living, and by their love, that it was worth it to keep choosing Jesus.
I had all these markers in the road along the way. People who had shared their lives. With me.
I wanted to be a marker on some one's road. I wanted to love kids regardless of their struggles or choices. I was good at this: good at entering into relationships, good at offering safe space. I was good at listening and showing compassion, telling them about a relentless God who pursues and who has a plan. Todd was good at this too. Gifted really. So we lived out our thanks together.
And several years later after leaving Arkansas and returning "home," I found myself frustrated while building a resume. I am all over the place, I thought. Who will hire me with a job history that looks like a three-ring circus? I felt like a failure after trying and not succeeding in the intensive care unit, on the night shift with too many buttons and too much beeping, too much equipment. That dim hall was too quiet for hours with complicated IV mixtures and unpredictable moments.
In the mean time, I met with eight girls once a week. We were still meeting together three years later. They were darling and mixed up and rock-solid. I just adored them and they knew it.
I tried out labor and delivery downtown and migrated to the teenage moms who arrived and left again in the same pair of size 4 jeans. Ate lollipops while they labored and laughed with girlfriends and mothers and no daddies. They called me a good nurse but I just adored them and they knew it.
I taught french and algebra for a year. And we laughed and I was terrible at controlling a classroom. They called me a good teacher but I just adored them and they knew it.
Then I had my first baby and it was the most natural thing I had experienced yet, this little person with little fat fingers and thighs. She traveled with me to bible study and we slept on that crazy striped couch, watched Gilmore Girls. I hoped she was the beginning of my own little posse because I just adored her and I think she knew it.
Next, I coached gymnastics for two years and I bounced around with little, strong gals in leotards. We laughed too and I worked them to the bone. They called me a good coach but I just adored them and they knew it.
When we finally decided it was time for me to be a nurse again, I wondered where I would end up, literally. I had learned by now that the ER and the ICU with all of their alarms and tubes and necessary type A-ness were not for me. I had been a coach and a teacher and a mentor and a mom...
And I realized that while my jobs were sporadic at best, they all had one thing in common: I had a little flock everywhere I went. I had been graced in each place to love and encourage kids, at every point along the way.
So when the nurse manager for a residential behavioral health center looked at my resume, she was kind, to say the least. I was surprised, then, when she stood up and gave me a big, rib-popping hug. She looked at me and said "I just have a feeling about you. You are just who I need."
And then she offered me a job.
This job was the beginning of a love for a group of kids I hadn't thought about or encountered. The more hours I spent with them, the more I saw myself in their faces. And I knew it was only by grace that I...
And when you know you have been loved well along the way, it is only reasonable to give that love back. When affliction has been relieved by compassion, it makes sense to dole it out again by the bushel. I was all mixed up once and He showed me how to love every little mixed-up guy and girl that came my way. For four years, I just adored them. And they knew it.
This job made me tired and sleepless at times. It was a strain on my husband. It was a burden and I carried their stories. It was sacrificial and it became a family affair.
All this, because it was natural. It was logical. It was reasonable worship.
What about you? Have you been loved well? Have you been relieved? Freed up? Have you discovered this reasonable worship? And naturally, I am speaking of offering ourselves back to Him, not to a job, per se. But doesn't it all mix together somehow? Spill over into everything ...