Inside I paused and started to doubt myself, and began to wonder, have I really grown? I took a mental trip down memory lane to look for signs of growth.
Last February my grandfather passed away after several months in the nursing home and hospital. This was the first really "close" person that I knew that had died. It was hard to see my grandmother in complete sorrow as they finally put his tired body to rest. The upheaval after that day was large as we helped sell off many of my grandparents' belongings and moved my grandma into a much smaller home that was easier to take care off. It reminded me of a song that my parents listened to growing up:
A mansion on a hill is a lovely sight to see
But like any other house, it's only temporary
Home is anywhere you choose to put your heart;
If there's no love inside, it'll soon fall apart.
You can drive around in a long limosine
If you don't know where you're going, it don't mean a thing
He who'd walk a mile, just to hold an empty hand
Knows what it means, to be a wealthy man
Worldly treasures will all pass away
There's just one thing that's put here to stay
Ashes to ashes, dust into dust
Buildings will crumble, bridges will rust
Mountains will disappear, rivers will dry up
And so it goes with everything but love
I learned so much about the value of family and friend relationships during this time vs. worldy goods, and was extremely grateful that we knew that my grandfather, a believer, would be waiting for us in heaven.
I graduated last December, and I was sure that I would be able to quickly find a maternity leave math position to take over in the spring. Instead, all of last spring I substituted in many different area schools, and would often only teach one or two times per week. This was extremely frustrating for me, as I felt that I should be able to land sub jobs every day, since I actually had a teaching degree. During that time period God really had me look at my pride. I had always assumed that I would be able to easily get a job; I had always done really well in school and had a glowing resume. However, when there are no jobs open, it does not matter what your resume looks like. I learned to trust that God would lead me in the way He so chooses and after six humbling months of having people ask me whether I had found a teaching job yet, in June I took my current position as a high school math teacher. (Note: I have the greatest respect for substitute teachers: I just thought that everyone would love me so much that I would easily be able to get a full-time teaching position)
In the summer, I worked at a daycare that I had worked at for the last few summers and was in charge of the elementary student summer program. Many of the women that work there are divorced and have little money. It reminded me of the importance of treating your spouse with respect as I saw many of their marriages fall apart due to the women not showing respect for their husbands by constantly nagging. I'm sure that their husbands were not always perfect, but I am not surprised that their husbands left because these wives would always tear down their husbands. I realized I was extremely wealthy if only because I had grown up in a home learning that when you are in a healthy marriage you have to be willing to give of yourself and that when the wife supports and encourages her husband he has the confidence to become a much better man. Furthermore, many of these women were in a bad state because they had no idea how to save money. I was thankful that I had been taught how to make wise decisions financially.
This fall, I again had to work out pride issues when I started teaching. I of course thought that I knew a lot about teaching. After the first day though, I was an emotional mess... things were just not going as planned. It wasn't until later that first week when I realized that I had been thinking that I could do it all. Instead, God wanted me to give the class to Him. When I did I felt such a relief. However, I did not learn this lesson easily. Instead, I would constantly try and take control again, then it would be a disaster, and finally I would give up and give my class to God and things would go much better.
I decided after reviewing this past year that I have grown probably not as much as I should have, and that that any growth mainly happened in my weakness. As I look forward to what the new year may bring, I am thankful for how God pushes us grow, and I pray for even more growth in the coming year, knowing that growth from above only happens by sometimes painful stretching and pruning.