Friday, January 18, 2013

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

I just want to take a moment to bask in gratefulness.

From an early age... I had no idea what I wanted to be "when I grew up." I had definite delusions of grandeur, for sure; I just wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to be famous for. As I got older, more fears set in, and I began to resign myself to being a wallflower. I knew I liked English, writing and literature and all that, but would I really be able to teach? Did I really have what it took? Besides, what does a schoolteacher actually do?

I contented myself with writing and reading for a good long while. When I started college, I decided to major in English because such a degree could easily transfer into something like journalism or teaching. At the very least I would be spending my time studying a subject I liked.

In 2009, some friends from my church took the opportunity to travel to Oklahoma City and participate with an in-school ministry there. They came back with such amazing stories that my parents immediately suggested it to me as something I would like.

I wasn't so sure. I knew that the last time I'd been away from my family for an extended period of time was a leadership seminar. I had learned much, made many friends--but missed my family terribly. That's part of the reason I chose an accelerated distance learning program for college; I knew that if I actually went anywhere for college, my previous track record projected that I would spend most of the time missing my family, and not focusing on my studies.
Hence my hesitation to join my friends in another trip to Oklahoma City, this time to lead a summer camp for inner-city kids. Filling out the application, I noted with some consternation that there didn't seem to be much that I had enough confidence to be able to step up and do. Music? I guess.... Arts & Crafts? Perhaps... Cooking? Sure...

I went, a near-wreck of nerves. Right away I found myself pulling 15-20-hour days, as we needed to be up early to prepare for the day, and up late cleaning up and setting things out for the next day. I was placed with the third-grade group, specifically supervising the girls of that group. There was a routine schedule, and I had a binder that held everything we needed for the prescribed activities. By the second day, I knew: I loved teaching. At least, in small groups. I loved interacting with "my girls," getting to know them, listening to them read the books provided, helping them through math drills and spelling lessons. During large-group sessions, I would watch them carefully, encouraging participation by demonstrating it myself, and I found that my energy level--far from being depleted from an extended period of having to function day in and day out on less sleep than I had ever had in my life--maintained steadily, so long as I had something to teach these kids.

Immediately upon returning home absolutely full of the knowledge of exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I received a solicitation from a friend of my mom's, asking if I would be willing to tutor her daughters in reading and writing. From there I went immediately to a fifth-grade student who was shirking her schoolwork behind her mother's back. Enter moi, and I kept her on-track and on task with such enthusiasm that not only did the two of us manage to complete her assignments ahead of schedule, but the next year, when she moved on to sixth grade no longer under my tutelage, she did send me a sampling of some of her work, and I agreed that it was far and away superior to the work she was doing when we first started working together.

Through the next summer and fall, I had very little tutoring work, but at the same time I was nearing the end of my own education, so I didn't worry about it, since I could then focus on my studies. Upon graduating, however....

The one consistent tutoring job I had was over. I started perusing Craigslist from time to time, but the same old fears, the same old discouragement was there: I certainly did not have the experience in any fields beyond education; yes, I might have the skills and the capacity to learn the duties, but wouldn't a business owner want someone who required minimal training, or at least could be trusted on account of experience? (Now, some people reading this may disagree; I am merely stating what I felt, whether it was true or not) I began to get in a crazy cycle of applying for jobs and never hearing back from the hiring manager. I attended job fairs, collected information for job boards...

At last, the fall of 2011, I landed a position in my preferred field (tutoring), as an after-school tutor with Sylvan. (Not their learning centers; this one was a sort of "offshoot" in-school program, a tenuous requirement at best) The most I could get was about 6 hours a week, but I made the most of those six hours. That job lasted till the beginning of summer 2012, at which time our supervisors told us that the school districts were no longer required to have that program, so they just didn't. So it was back to the drawing board.

My drawing board full of ONLY educational jobs, when I was desperate enough to apply for retail jobs wherever I remotely had a chance of getting it. Another crazy cycle ensued... Apply; hear nothing; forced to wait the minimum required 30 days before re-upping the application; some stores had "applicant profiles" that you could create, but these then sent the applicant notifications not only from her area, but the desired positions all over the nation. Yours truly could not get an interview with the Nordstrom's at Vancouver Mall--but there's an opening in the Annapolis location! Yours truly never heard back from Sears--but the store in Pleasanton, CA is hiring!

Meanwhile, everyone around me kept encouraging me. A few people would tell me stories they'd heard or experienced about applying dozens and hundreds of times for many different jobs before landing an interview. My problem was not the lack of openings; I was still struggling against the fear of not being "qualified" to fill a variety of positions. I didn't want to even apply for a position I didn't feel confident enough to fill--and my confidence was dwindling.

My confidence may have dwindled, but my faith did not. There has been an overwhelming amount of evidence of God's faithfulness and grace toward me in my life; there was not a shadow of doubt that He would come through in His timetable, by His power, and the results would be precise. The preciseness of God is certainly something to behold. It thrills me every time I see it. I kept praying, asking for prayer from others, listening to advice, applying to jobs...

Finally, in the middle of December, I found a job board listing openings in schools. I had applied on the district site once before, for a job that had (again!) "too many" requirements and qualifications that I did not have. This one was different; in fact, I was almost over-qualified, as far as education requirements went! I jumped on it, albeit not without the nagging feeling in my mind that it would just be another application floating around the "cloud" till it expired.

The second week of January, I get an e-mail response. Interview time! Given my "track record" for interviews (50% of the interviews I've ever had, I got the job), I stepped forward with great confidence. Here at last was a position for which I was qualified, had the necessary experience, and would be able to perform above expectations! The interview went smoothly.... But God was not done yet.
That same weekend, I get a notification from a tutor "database" site I am a member of, from a family nearby whose 6th-grade daughter needs homework help! I may only be "qualified" to teach in a few subjects (pretty exclusively English-related), but homework help is definitely my cup of tea! I met with the family on Sunday, and the student and I had our first session on Tuesday! So while I'm waiting to hear back from the school district, I have a consistent "job" on the side. Talk about precise! To give me the opportunity of a job during school hours, in addition to an after-school position! No conflict of schedules, no having to decide one or the other; and it's what I love to do! I am positively giddy when I imagine what else God might have for me in the future.

"All I have needed, Thy Hand hath provided; Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me."